Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Christine Moser

Second Advisor

Dr. Jean Kimmel

Third Advisor

Dr. Kevin Lee


Applied microeconomics, climate change, natural disaster, public health, economics policy


This dissertation comprises three chapters that examine how extreme events impact health outcomes such as short-term illness, body mass index, probability of pre-term birth, and mortality. The study reveals the severe consequences of these events and shows that certain groups within a particular country are affected disproportionately.

The first chapter examines whether National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), India’s flagship workfare program, mitigates adverse health outcomes of a drought. This paper contributes to a growing area of research on adaptations to climate change. Using Indian Human Development Survey (2004-2005 and 2010-2011), a nationally representative panel data set, and high resolution (0.5 x 0.5 gridded) rainfall data, this paper examines whether participation in the NREGS reduces short-term illness and improves body mass index during a period of drought. Using a negative binomial fixed effects model, I find that boys experience fewer sick days if a family member is enrolled in the program. Using a two-way fixed effects model, I find that the BMI of women and marginalized groups improves because of access to the program. This suggests that the program shows potential to mitigate negative health shocks during a period of drought to some extent.

The second chapter examines the impact of in utero exposure to the 2015 Nepal earthquake, one of the strongest earthquakes in the history of Nepal. I use the Nepal Demographic and Health Survey (2011 and 2016) and earthquake data from the USGS earthquake hazards program to analyze the impact on birth outcomes. Using rare-event logistic regression, I estimate that the probability of preterm birth significantly increases, especially if the shock is experienced during the first and second trimester. The results also suggest that girls are more likely to be born prematurely. The earthquake significantly reduced the financial resources needed for medical treatment which is a possible channel through which the probability of preterm birth increased.

The third chapter uses the 2009 – 2016 district-level panel dataset to examine whether extreme temperatures have an impact on the mortality rate in India. For analysis, the fixed effect model is used with time and district specific fixed effects. The results suggest that an increase in ‘hot days’, defined as a daily average temperature higher than 30°C, increases rural mortality by 0.026. Whereas the impact on urban mortality is significantly less, that increases by 0.002. This paper also shows that access to amenities such as electricity, as shown by night-time light, can reduce the negative impact of hot days in rural areas. Night-time light is correlated with a higher average standard of living at the district level. This indicates that despite decades of effort to improve the standard of living, the Indian population is still not protected against extreme weather.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access