Child fostering in a changing climate: evidence from sub-Saharan Africa by Sara R. Ronnkvist, Brian C. Thiede & Emma Barber (2023)

Screenshot of title: "Child fostering in a changing climate: evidence from sub-Saharan Africa" in Population and Environment by Sara R. Ronnkvist, Brian C. Thiede, and Emma Barber.

Population and Environment


An extensive social science literature has examined the effects of climate change on human migration. Prior studies have focused largely on the out-migration of working age adults or entire households, with less attention to migration and other forms of geographic mobility among other age groups, including youth. In this study, we focus on the implications of climate variability for the movement of children by examining the association between climate exposures and the in- and out-fostering of children in sub-Saharan Africa. We link high-resolution temperature and precipitation records to data from the Demographic and Health Surveys for 23 sub-Saharan African countries. We fit a series of regression models to measure the overall associations between climate exposures and each outcome and then evaluate whether these associations are moderated by socioeconomic status, the number of children in the household, and the prevalence of fostering in each country. Precipitation is positively associated with in-fostering overall, and these effects are especially strong among households that already have at least one child and in countries where child fostering is common. We find no overall relationship between either temperature or precipitation exposures and out-fostering, but we do detect significant effects among households with many children and those with more educated heads. In sum, our findings suggest that climate variability can influence child mobility, albeit in complex and in some cases context-specific ways. Given the socioeconomic and health implications of fostering, these results underline another pathway through which climate exposures can affect children’s well-being. More broadly, this study shows that new attention to the links between climate variability, child fostering, and other understudied forms of spatial mobility is needed to fully understand the effects of climate change on human populations.