A recent study by researchers at the Pennsylvania College of Agricultural Sciences shows that traumatic events or “shocks,” such as climate disasters and loss of family income, can cause long-term damage to the academic achievement and future food security of youth. This research underscores the need for policies to mitigate the effects of climate change shocks.
Climate change increases the frequency of extreme weather events and other climatic disasters. Thus, the problem associated with the negative effects of shocks on young people may become much more acute in the future. The researchers, based on data collected in Peru, found a direct correlation between exposure to more shocks at an early age and lower reading and vocabulary test scores over time.
These effects also have an impact on food security. A study published in the journal Population Research and Policy Review points to the need for policies to mitigate these effects. Carolyn Reyes, a senior fellow at Public Wise, stresses the importance of policies that help minimize the effects of shocks caused by climate change, economic crises and the ongoing pandemic.
Unconditional cash transfers, expanded social protection, and more affordable insurance programs are suggested as possible solutions to this problem. These measures will help ensure that young people have the resources and protection they need in the event of shocks.
The study also found that recent shocks have a stronger association with negative learning and well-being outcomes. For example, Peruvian 15-year-olds who had experienced shocks in the previous three to four years were found to have lower test scores, less food security, poorer health, and a greater burden of household responsibilities.
The impact of climate disasters and shocks on youth is global. Children, regardless of where they live, can face serious consequences for their health and learning. Young children in particular can experience significant impairments in physical and cognitive development due to shocks at an early age.
This problem is particularly acute for children from rural households, who face additional difficulties due to environmental shocks. For example, they may be forced to help their parents earn an income or take care of siblings, which distracts them from school and can lead to pushing them out of school.
The study underscores the need for policies that address the effects of climate disasters and shocks on youth. This includes creating measures to ensure that youth have access to education, food security, and social protection.