Policy Experiment

Cashing in on clean air

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Science  18 Dec 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6267, pp. 1488-1489
DOI: 10.1126/science.350.6267.1488-g

Exposure to air pollution early in life could undermine earnings as an adult. Isen et al. studied 5.7 million people born in hundreds of counties across the United States, within a few years before and after those counties reduced ambient levels of total suspended particulates (TSPs) under the Clean Air Act (CAA) in the early 1970s. U.S. Census Bureau data were used to link date and location of birth with labor market outcomes decades later. Although those born 1 to 3 years before the CAA improvements still enjoyed cleaner air beginning at ages one to three, they were exposed to more pollutants from conception until age one. Compared to them, those born after the CAA induced a 10% decline in TSP levels earned roughly 1% more at age 30, possibly due to improved cognitive ability and health.

J. Polit. Econ., http://faculty.haas.berkeley.edu/rwalker/research/caalongtermhealth.pdf (2015).

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