QED Working Paper Number

From October 2015 to April 2016, Southern Africa experienced one of the severest droughts in history. The drought's intensity varied significantly across locations. This provides a natural experiment to estimate the effect of large, negative agricultural shocks. We consider the impact of this shock on children’s educational outcomes using data from rural Zimbabwe. Those who experienced the drought may suffer from decreases in income and food access. This can affect household resource allocation and schooling decisions while exposing individuals to stress and uncertainty. We find the drought increases the probability that students advance in school, a seemingly positive impact, likely due to lower opportunity costs to education. The drought also led to a significant decline in performance on mathematics assessments and leadership attitudes, suggesting stress or other factors associated with a drought more than offset increases in attendance. This highlights the importance of using multiple indicators in education evaluations.

JEL Codes
economic development
natural experiment
Working Paper