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Air Pollution: Exposure, Health, and the Labor Market
Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020
10:15 AM - 12:15 PM (PDT)
American Economic Association
University of Southern California
Air Pollution and the Labor Market: Evidence from Wildfire Smoke
We estimate labor market responses to transient air pollution events using a novel linkage of satellite images of wildfire smoke plumes, pollution monitor data, and labor market outcomes in the United States. Smoke exposure reduces earnings in both the year of exposure and the following year, lowers labor force participation, and increases Social Security claiming and payments. With an average of 20.4 days of annual smoke exposure per person, earnings losses sum to 1.26 percent of annual labor income. We estimate that the welfare cost of these lost earnings is substantially higher than the mortality cost of wildfire smoke.
Air Pollution, Infectious Disease, and Health Care Access: Evidence from Influenza Pandemics in the United States, 1945-1981
Drawing on annual data on infant and all age mortality all U.S. counties for 1945-1981, this paper investigates the effect of air pollution on mortality during influenza pandemic and non-pandemic years. The 1918-1919 pandemic occurred during a period in which there was little scope for medical or public interventions. In contrast, during the 1957-1958, 1968-1969, and 1977 influenza pandemics, antibiotics and vaccines were available. Further, beginning in 1965, parts of the population were covered by Medicaid. The network of air pollution monitoring stations was still sparse until the 1970s. To address this, our analysis draws on newly digitized annual data on power plants. We create a measure of local air pollution using coal-fired electricity generating capacity, show how it relates to available monitor data, and use this measure of air pollution to examine the effects of pollution on mortality in pandemic and non-pandemic years. Because infants are very sensitive to current environmental conditions and have fewer issues related to migration, our main regressions focus on infant mortality. Preliminary analysis suggests that increases in the capacity of coal-fired power plants are positively and significantly associated with higher infant mortality during non-pandemic years and that during the three pandemics the effect of increases in coal-fired capacity roughly doubles. This provides evidence that pollution affected the severity of infectious disease. We also find that Medicaid expansion appears to have mitigated infant mortality during the 1968-1969 and 1977 pandemics. We plan to examine black-white differentials in the effects of pollution on infant mortality during pandemic and non-pandemic years.
The Effect of Air Pollution on Body Weight and Obesity: Evidence from China
We provide the first study estimating the causal effect of air pollution on body weight. Using the China Health and Nutrition Survey, which provides detailed longitudinal health and socioeconomic information for 13,226 adult individuals over 1989-2011, we find significant positive effects of air pollution, instrumented by thermal inversions, on body mass index (BMI). Specifically, a 1 µg/m3 (1.59%) increase in average PM2.5 concentrations in the past 12 months increases BMI by 0.31%, and further increases the overweight and obesity rates by 0.89 and 0.19 percentage points, respectively. Our paper identifies a new cause of obesity, and sheds new light on the morbidity cost of air pollution.
What Caused Racial Disparities in Particulate Exposure to Fall? New Evidence from the Clean Air Act and Satellite-Based Measures of Air Quality
Racial differences in exposure to ambient air pollution have declined significantly in the United States over the past 20 years. This project links restricted-access Census Bureau microdata to newly available, spatially continuous high resolution measures of ambient particulate pollution (PM2.5) to examine the underlying causes and consequences of differences in black-white pollution exposures. We begin by decomposing differences in pollution exposure into components explained by observable population characteristics (e.g., income) versus those that remain unexplained. We then use quantile regression methods to show that a significant portion of the "unexplained" convergence in black-white pollution exposure can be attributed to differential impacts of the Clean Air Act (CAA) in non-Hispanic African American and non-Hispanic white communities. Areas with larger black populations saw greater CAA-related declines in PM2.5 exposure. We show that the CAA has been the single largest contributor to racial convergence in PM2.5 pollution exposure in the U.S. since 2000, accounting for over 60 percent of the reduction.
Joseph E. Aldy
University of Pittsburgh
Q5 - Environmental Economics
I0 - General