Maybe Next Month? Temperature Shocks, Climate Change, and Dynamic Adjustments in Birth Rates

61 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2015 Last revised: 29 Oct 2015

Alan I. Barreca

Tulane University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Olivier Deschenes

University of California, Santa Barbara - College of Letters & Science - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Melanie E. Guldi

University of Central Florida - College of Business Administration - Department of Economics

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Date Written: October 20, 2015

Abstract

Dynamic adjustments could be a useful strategy for mitigating the costs of acute environmental shocks when timing is not a strictly binding constraint. To investigate whether such adjustments could apply to fertility, we estimate the effects of temperature shocks on birth rates in the United States between 1931 and 2010. Our innovative approach allows for presumably random variation in the distribution of daily temperatures to affect birth rates up to 24 months into the future. We find that additional days above 80 °F cause a large decline in birth rates approximately 8 to 10 months later. The initial decline is followed by a partial rebound in births over the next few months implying that populations can mitigate the fertility cost of temperature shocks by shifting conception month. This dynamic adjustment helps explain the observed decline in birth rates during the spring and subsequent increase during the summer. The lack of a full rebound suggests that increased temperatures due to climate change may reduce population growth rates in the coming century. As an added cost, climate change will shift even more births to the summer months when third trimester exposure to dangerously high temperatures increases. Based on our analysis of historical changes in the temperature-fertility relationship, we conclude air conditioning could be used to substantially offset the fertility costs of climate change.

Keywords: Fertility, birth rates, seasonality, birth weight, temperature, climate change

JEL Classification: I12, J13, Q54

Suggested Citation

Barreca, Alan I. and Deschenes, Olivier and Guldi, Melanie E., Maybe Next Month? Temperature Shocks, Climate Change, and Dynamic Adjustments in Birth Rates (October 20, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2676902 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2676902

Alan I. Barreca (Contact Author)

Tulane University ( email )

6823 St Charles Ave
New Orleans, LA 70118
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Olivier Deschenes

University of California, Santa Barbara - College of Letters & Science - Department of Economics ( email )

Santa Barbara, CA 93106
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Melanie E. Guldi

University of Central Florida - College of Business Administration - Department of Economics ( email )

Orlando, FL 32816-1400
United States

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