Extreme temperatures and school performance of the poor: Evidence from Mexico

Peer Reviewed
30 April 2024

Eva O. Arceo-Gomez, Alejandro López-Feldman


As the risks associated with climate change intensify, understanding its impacts on human capital development is crucial. In this paper, we analyze the causal effects of temperature on the academic performance of students in Mexico, a middle-income country facing significant climate risks and socioeconomic challenges. Using panel data on over 5.5 million students, our results show that a 1 °C increase in annual average temperature leads to a 0.07 and 0.08 standard deviation decrease in Spanish and math test scores, respectively. Moreover, a one standard deviation (0.93 °C) increase in the long-term municipal temperature average is associated with 0.04 and 0.03 standard deviation declines in those scores. The effects are context-dependent - students in historically colder municipalities actually benefit from hotter temperatures, likely due to improved learning conditions in under-insulated schools and homes. However, the detrimental impacts appear consistent across urban, rural, and socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, underscoring the vulnerability of marginalized populations to the academic consequences of climate change. Overall, our findings highlight the urgency of addressing the educational dimensions of the global climate crisis through targeted interventions and adaptive policies, particularly in low-and middle-income countries.


  • Analysis of 5.5 M students shows climate change's threat to schooling performance.
  • Exposure to 1 °C higher annual temperature reduces test scores by 0.07–0.08 SD.
  • 1 SD increase in long-term municipal temperature decreases scores by 0.03–0.04 sD.
  • Negative temperature effects are consistent across urban, rural, and poor areas.
  • Students in colder municipalities in Mexico benefit from temperature increases.
Publication reference
Arceo-Gomez, E. O., & López-Feldman, A. (2024). Extreme temperatures and school performance of the poor: Evidence from Mexico. Economics Letters, 238, 111700. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.econlet.2024.111700
Publication | 22 April 2024