Negative Rainfall Shocks Increase Levels of the Stress Hormone Cortisol Among Poor Farmers in Kenya

27 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2013 Last revised: 20 Jul 2013

See all articles by Matthieu Chemin

Matthieu Chemin

University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM)

Joost de Laat

The World Bank - Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund (SIEF)

Johannes Haushofer

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Date Written: July 19, 2013

Abstract

Does poverty lead to stress? Despite several studies showing correlations between socioeconomic status and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, it remains unknown whether this relationship is causal. We used random weather shocks in Kenya to address this question. Our identification strategy exploits the fact that rainfall is an important input for farmers, but not for non-farmers such as urban artisans. We obtained salivary cortisol samples from poor rural farmers in Kianyaga district, Kenya, and informal metal workers in Nairobi, Kenya, together with GPS coordinates for household location and high-resolution infrared satellite imagery measuring rainfall. We show that the absence of rain constitutes a random negative income shock for farmers, but not for non-farmers. We find that low levels of rain in the preceding year increase cortisol levels among farmers, but not non-farmers. Similarly, farmers but not non-farmers exhibit higher levels of self-reported stress when the preceding year had high compared to low levels of rain. In addition, the effect of rain on cortisol is larger in farmers who depend solely on agriculture for their income than among those who also have other sources of income. Together, these findings suggest a causal effect of negative shocks on stress levels.

Keywords: weather shocks, rainfall, cortisol, stress, worries

JEL Classification: C93, D03, D87, O12

Suggested Citation

Chemin, Matthieu and de Laat, Joost and Haushofer, Johannes, Negative Rainfall Shocks Increase Levels of the Stress Hormone Cortisol Among Poor Farmers in Kenya (July 19, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2294171 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2294171

Matthieu Chemin

University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) ( email )

PB 8888 Station DownTown
Succursale Centre Ville
Montreal, Quebec H3C3P8
Canada

Joost De Laat

The World Bank - Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund (SIEF) ( email )

United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.worldbank.org/sief

Johannes Haushofer (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

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