Published: July 8, 2019

Adverse weather conditions may be responsible for diminishing children’s critical early development outcomes and long-term achievement, according to a new Life Course Centre Working Paper.

The paper presents the first causal estimates of the effect of the weather on children’s time allocation. It uses variations in local weather observed during the random diary dates of two nationally representative cohorts of Australian children whose time-use diaries were surveyed biannually over 10 years. Unfavourable weather conditions, such as extreme cold or hot temperatures or rain, cause children to switch activities from outdoors to indoors, mainly by reducing the time allocated to active pursuits and travel and increasing the time allocated to media. The effects of bad weather are also more pronounced on weekends.

The results of this study show a diverse range of effects of the weather on children’s time allocation. For example, temperature has more impact for children with asthma, while rain has no statistically significant effect for them. The results also provide evidence for acclimatization as children living in colder regions or surveyed in colder months are more sensitive to warmer temperatures. There is also evidence for short-run adaptation to adverse weather conditions as children shift activities to more favourable times of the day.

The paper’s findings on the negative impact of adverse weather on children’s time allocation to physical activities, coupled with the large evidence that such activities improve child health and academic performance, suggest that the weather can influence children’s development and long-term achievements. These results highlight that policies increasing access to indoor activities are a step in the right direction for getting children to participate in physical activities on days with unfavourable weather conditions. These policies are even more beneficial to children who are impacted more by unfavourable weather conditions, including children with asthma.

‘Weather and Children’s Time Allocation’ is a collaborative Working Paper authored by Life Course Centre Research Fellow Dr Ha Trong Nguyen of the Telethon Kids Institute and The University of Western Australia, in conjunction with Dr Huong Thu Le of the School of Population and Global Health at The University of Western Australia and Professor Luke Connelly of the Centre for the Business and Economics of Health at The University of Queensland.

You can read the full paper here.