Journal Article

Rainfall shocks, cognitive development and educational attainment among adolescents in a drought-prone region in Kenya

There is growing evidence that early life conditions are important for outcomes during adolescence, including cognitive development and education. Economic conditions at the time children enter school are also important. We examine these relationships for young adolescents living in a low-income drought-prone pastoral setting in Kenya using historical rainfall patterns captured by remote sensing as exogenous shocks. Past rainfall shocks measured as deviations from local long-term averages have substantial negative effects on the cognitive development and educational achievement of girls. Results for the effects of rainfall shocks on grades attained, available for both girls and boys, support that finding. Consideration of additional outcomes suggests the effects of rainfall shocks on education are due to multiple underlying mechanisms including persistent effects on the health of children and the wealth of their households, underscoring the potential value of contemporaneous program and policy responses to such shocks.