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The Effects of Growing-Season Drought on Young Adult Women’s Life Course Transitions: Evidence From Malawi (WP-19-11)

Liliana Andriano and Julia Behrman

This paper provides a conceptual overview and empirical investigation of how weather shocks impact young women’s life course transitions as part of a broader investigation of the demographic implications of climate change.  Drawing on the case of Malawi the researchers combine repeated cross-sections of geo-referenced Demographic and Health Survey data with a cutting-edge measure of drought shocks.  Discrete-time event history analyses indicate that exposure to growing-season drought in adolescence has an accelerating effect on young adult women’s transitions into first unions—including both marriage and cohabitation—and an accelerating effect on transitions into first births within and outside of marriage (the latter is significant at p<0.1).  Drought has a marginally significant positive impact on exchanging sex for goods/cash, but rainfall shocks—which are often beneficial for agricultural productivity—have a large negative impact on this outcome, which indicates that drought-related acceleration of life course transitions may be partially financially motivated.

This paper is published in Population Studies.

Liliana Andriano, Department of Sociology, Nuffield College, University of Oxford

Julia Behrman, Assistant Professor of Sociology and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

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