The Impact of Climate Variability on Crimes against Women: Dowry Deaths in India

Sheetal Sekhri, University of Virginia
Adam Storeygard, Brown University

We examine the effect of local precipitation shocks on crimes against women using annual data from 583 districts in India over the period 2002-2007. We use annual deviations of rainfall from the long-term local mean to isolate the impact of rain shocks. We find that dry shocks (below-average rainfall) increase reported domestic violence, dowry deaths, and dowry payments. However, sexual harassment declines in dry shock years. These patterns are consistent with a framework of consumption smoothing by those exposed to weather risks, but inconsistent with the alternative hypothesis that general unrest causes these crimes to increase. We examine two mitigation strategies. We find no evidence that women’s political representation allays these risks. Access to groundwater irrigation worsens the effects of dry shocks, and mitigates those of wet shocks. These findings suggest that access to groundwater irrigation induces agricultural households to try risky agricultural practices that increase income volatility.

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Presented in Poster Session 6