Sajid, Osama., Bevis, Leah EM. 2021. Flooding and Child Health: Evidence from Pakistan World Development, Forthcoming.
We examine the impact of flooding in Pakistan on child health using satellite data and two household datasets. Flooding may influence child health, as measured by weight-for-height z-score, through two key channels. First, excessive flood waters can catalyze the spread of diarrheal disease, negatively impacting child health. Second, excessive flood waters — even when damaging in some areas — provide water to rice paddies and other agriculture, increasing food availability in the post-flood period. This may positively influence child health. In Pakistan, we find evidence of both channels: floods increase incidence of morbidity (diarrhea and fever) and also increase dietary adequacy (meal frequency and dietary diversity) in the post flood season. Because these mechanisms act against one another, we find weak overall impact of floods on child health.
I examine the long-run causal impact of flooding on rural wealth, migration, and employment in India using three decades of satellite-derived flooding data and census data. Flooding in the past decade decreases rural wealth across multiple asset categories. This decline in wealth seem to inhibit migration out of flooded areas; a standard deviation increase in flooding during the previous decade reduces migration of rural dwellers to urban areas of other districts by almost 70 percent. Within-district migration, however, is not affected by floods. Flooding also increases the share of rural workforce engaged in agricultural cultivation and decreases rural workforce share in the higher-wage non-agricultural sector. Taken together, it appears that the compounded effects of increased flooding over many years destroys rural wealth and traps families in the lower-productivity agricultural sector, inhibiting even the coping strategy of sending migrants to higher-wage urban centers.
Does Cash Transfer Program Mitigate the Impact of Floods? Evidence from Pakistan (with J. Chen and G. Mustafa)