Temperature and human capital in India

Three researchers – Teevrat Garg , Maulik Jagnani  Vis Taraz – in this piece:

A large proportion of the population in India has agrarian livelihoods that remain climate-exposed. The number of hot days per year in the country are expected to double by the end of this century. This column shows that higher-than-normal temperatures in a particular year lead to a contemporaneous reduction in agricultural incomes, and large negative impacts on children’s human capital outcomes in the subsequent year. 


We use math and reading test scores for more than 4.5 million children in primary and secondary school to examine the effects of higher temperatures on human capital production in India. Using data from an India-wide repeated cross-section2 between 2006-2014, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), that tests school-age children on math and reading ability, we show that over a longer-run horizon, measured as the number of hot days in the calendar year prior to the test, higher temperatures affect both math and reading scores. Ten extra days in the previous year with average daily temperature above 29°C (84°F) relative to 15°C-17°C (59°F-63°F) reduces current-year math and reading test performance by 0.03 and 0.02 standard deviations3 (SD) respectively.
In fact, when we isolate effects by growing and non-growing seasons in India, we find that the effect of higher temperatures on test scores is primarily driven through higher temperatures in the previous years’ agricultural growing seasons, with comparatively negligible effects of non-growing season temperature. Ten extra days over 29°C in the previous year growing season reduces math and reading scores by 0.1 and 0.06 SD, respectively. These are large effects: these 10 extra hot days in the previous year growing season could effectively wipe out gains made from a median educational intervention (McEwan 2015), particularly when one considers that India currently experiences close to 50 days above 29°C.

One Response to “Temperature and human capital in India”

  1. Arvind Kaul Says:

    Are there studies that compare scores in Math and Reading Ability of school-age children of plains vs colder regions.

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