Ha Trong Nguyen, Huong Thu Le, and Luke B. Connelly.
Time is an extremely valuable resource, especially for children, as their time allocation among different activities has been found to affect their development outcomes. This paper presents the first causal estimates of the effect of weather on children’s time allocation. It exploits exogenous 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, as represented by cold or hot temperature 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. Furthermore, the effects of bad weather are more pronounced on weekends.
Our results also show significant heterogeneity in the effects of weather on children’s time allocation. For example, temperature has a much stronger impact for children with asthma while precipitation has no statistically significant effect for them. Our results additionally provide suggestive evidence for acclimatization because children living in colder regions or surveyed in colder months are more sensitive to warmer temperatures. We also find other indicative evidence for short-run adaptation to weather conditions because children appear to shift activities to more favourable times of the day.
Our findings of the negative impacts of adverse weather conditions on children’s physically active time coupling with large evidence that physically active activities improve child health and academic performance suggest that extreme weather conditions may diminish children’s development and long-term achievements through their effects on children’s time allocation. The results also indicate policies increasing access to indoor active activities are a step in the right direction, in terms of getting children to participate in physically active activities on dates with unfavourable weather conditions. Furthermore, our findings of the differential weather impacts suggest that such policies would be more beneficial to children who are found to be affected more by unfavourable weather conditions, including children with asthma.
June 18, 2019