Journal Article

Temperature and school absences: evidence from England

Population and Environment, 46:6, 1–20 (2024)
Open Access


Extreme temperature affects children’s health, cognitive abilities, and behavior with implications for human capital accumulation. For example, several studies documented both heat and cold to decrease cognitive abilities and being consequential for test scores. An alternative, less explored pathway, by which temperature is consequential for educational achievement, is absenteeism. In this study, we explore how heat affects school attendance leveraging administrative data on more than 22,000 schools in England from the school years 2011/2012 to 2018/2019. Using a fixed-effects approach largely used in the literature, we exploit the variations in temperature by school year to estimate the effect of heat and cold days on absences. The results expose hot days to increase absences. Inquiring specific types of absences, we observe hot days to increase illness-related absences and authorized holidays. Conversely, we do not find any substantive impact of cold exposure, except for illness-related absences in energy-poor neighborhoods. In conclusion, we provide additional evidence on the impact of temperature on children and propose an alternative pathway through which societal challenges associated with climate change and energy poverty could affect human capital accumulation.

Keywords: England, Europe
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.