Stunted from the start: Early life weather conditions and child undernutrition in Ethiopia

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This paper examines the relationship between weather conditions and child nutrition in Ethiopia. We link data from four rounds of the Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey to high-resolution climate data to measure exposure to rainfall and temperature in utero and during early life. We then estimate a set of multivariate regression models to understand how weather conditions impact child stunting, an indicator of sustained early life undernutrition. We find that greater rainfall during the rainy seasons in early life is associated with greater height for age. In addition, higher temperatures in utero, particularly during the first and third trimesters, and more rainfall during the third trimester, are positively associated with severe stunting, though stunting decreases with temperature in early life. We find potential evidence for a number of pathways underlying the weather-child nutrition relationship including agricultural livelihoods, heat stress, infectious disease transmission, and women's time use during pregnancy. These findings illuminate the complex pathways through which climate change may influence child health and should motivate additional research focused on identifying the causal mechanisms underlying these links.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113234
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


  • Child stunting
  • Climate change
  • Drought
  • Ethiopia
  • Heat
  • Nutrition


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