Women, Weather, and Woes: The Triangular Dynamics of Female-Headed Households, Economic Vulnerability, and Climate Variability in South Africa

Flatø, Martin and Muttarak, Raya and Pelser, André (2016) Women, Weather, and Woes: The Triangular Dynamics of Female-Headed Households, Economic Vulnerability, and Climate Variability in South Africa. World Development, 90. pp. 41-62. ISSN 0305750X

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Existing gender inequality is believed to be heightened as a result of weather events and climate-related disasters that are likely to become more common in the future. We show that an already marginalized group-female-headed households in South Africa-is differentially affected by relatively modest levels of variation in rainfall, which households experience on a year-to-year basis. Data from three waves of the National Income Dynamics Survey in South Africa allow us to follow incomes of 4,162 households from 2006 to 2012. By observing how household income is affected by variation in rainfall relative to what is normally experienced during the rainy season in each district, our study employs a series of naturally occurring experiments that allow us to identify causal effects. We find that households where a single head can be identified based on residency or work status are more vulnerable to climate variability than households headed by two adults. Single male-headed households are more vulnerable because of lower initial earnings and, to a lesser extent, other household characteristics that contribute to economic disadvantages. However, this can only explain some of the differential vulnerability of female-headed households. This suggests that there are traits specific to female-headed households, such as limited access to protective social networks or other coping strategies, which makes this an important dimension of marginalization to consider for further research and policy in South Africa and other national contexts. Households headed by widows, never-married women, and women with a non-resident spouse (e.g., "left-behind" migrant households) are particularly vulnerable. We find vulnerable households only in districts where rainfall has a large effect on agricultural yields, and female-headed households remain vulnerable when accounting for dynamic impacts of rainfall on income.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This work was supported by the 2014-15 Southern Africa Young Scientist Summer Program (SA-YSSP) at the University of the Free State (UFS) in collaboration with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), the National Research Foundation (NRF), the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST). This project has also received funding from the Research Council of Norway, project number 244946. While carrying out this research, Martin Flatø has been associated with the Centre for the Study of Equality, Social Organization, and Performance (ESOP) at the Department of Economics at the University of Oslo. ESOP is supported by the Research Council of Norway through its Centres of Excellence funding scheme, project number 179552. We are grateful to Dr. Oscar Rojas at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for his assistance in obtaining the Agriculture Stress Index data.
Keywords: climate variability, economic vulnerability, female-headed household, poverty, South Africa
Divisions: Departments > Sozioökonomie > Sozialpolitik > Demographie > Wittgenstein Centre
Version of the Document: Published
Variance from Published Version: None
Depositing User: Mohammad Al Hessan
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2017 13:51
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2018 16:00
Related URLs:
URI: https://epub.wu.ac.at/id/eprint/5932


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