Estimating the impact of weather on agriculture

This paper quantifies the significance and magnitude of the effect of measurement error in remote sensing weather data in the analysis of smallholder agricultural productivity. The analysis leverages 17 rounds of nationally-representative, panel household survey data from six countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. These data are spatially linked with a range of geospatial weather data sources and related metrics. The paper provides systematic evidence on measurement error introduced by (1) different methods used to obfuscate the exact GPS coordinates of households, (2) different metrics used to quantify precipitation and temperature, and (3) different remote sensing measurement technologies. First, the analysis finds no discernible effect of measurement error introduced by different obfuscation methods. Second, it finds that simple weather metrics, such as total seasonal rainfall and mean daily temperature, outperform more complex metrics, such as deviations in rainfall from the long-run average or growing degree days, in a broad range of settings. Finally, the analysis finds substantial amounts of measurement error based on remote sensing products. In extreme cases, the data drawn from different remote sensing products result in opposite signs for coefficients on weather metrics, meaning that precipitation or temperature drawn from one product purportedly increases crop output while the same metrics drawn from a different product purportedly reduces crop output. The paper concludes with a set of six best practices for researchers looking to combine remote sensing weather data with socioeconomic survey data.

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