The Effects of Growing-Season Drought on Young Adult Women’s Life Course Transitions in a Sub-Saharan Context

Liliana Andriano , University of Oxford
Julia Behrman, Northwestern University

This paper provides a conceptual overview and empirical investigation of how weather shocks impact young women’s life course transitions. Drawing on the case of Malawi, we combine repeated cross-sections of georeferenced 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 among unpartnered women, but exposure to extremely wet growing seasons—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.

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 Presented in Session P12. Demographic Transition and Environmental Change