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What Doesn't Kill you Makes you Weaker: Prenatal Pollution Exposure and Educational Outcomes

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  • Nicholas J. Sanders

    ()
    (Economics Department, Stanford University)

Abstract

I examine the impact of prenatal suspended particulate pollution on educational outcomes, using ambient total suspended particulates (TSPs) as a measure of particulate exposure and standardized test scores of exposed individuals as a measure of educational achievement. I focus on individuals born between 1979 and 1985 to exploit the shock of the industrial recession of the early 1980s. This variation helps separate the causal effects of pollution reduction from general time trends. Considering the 7-year time period as a whole yields statistically insignificant results, but focusing on the 3-year period around the recession (1981-1983) yields negative and statistically significant results, suggesting that the relationship is subtle enough to require large-scale changes to be detectable. My findings suggest a standard deviation decrease in the mean pollution level in a student’s year of birth is associated with 1.87% of a standard deviation increase in test scores in high school. I also employ an instrumental variables strategy, using changes in relative manufacturing employment driven by the recession as an instrument for TSP levels. Instrumental variables results are approximately 3.7 times the size of the OLS results, suggesting the potential presence of measurement error in ambient pollution. Results are robust to the inclusion of school fixed effects, year of birth and year of test fixed effects, and various demographic and economic covariates. I also investigate the potential bias sources of migration and selection into motherhood, and show these are unlikely to explain my results.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research in its series Discussion Papers with number 10-019.

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Date of creation: Mar 2011
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Handle: RePEc:sip:dpaper:10-019

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Keywords: motherhood; education;

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References

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  1. Jens Ludwig & Douglas L Miller, 2007. "Does Head Start Improve Children's Life Chances? Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(1), pages 159-208, 02.
  2. Brian A. Jacob, 2007. "Test-Based Accountability and Student Achievement: An Investigation of Differential Performance on NAEP and State Assessments," NBER Working Papers 12817, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Olivier Deschenes & Michael Greenstone & Jonathan Guryan, 2009. "Climate Change and Birth Weight," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 211-17, May.
  4. Douglas Almond & Lena Edlund & Marten Palme, 2007. "Chernobyl's Subclinical Legacy: Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout and School Outcomes in Sweden," Discussion Papers 0607-19, Columbia University, Department of Economics.
  5. Janet Currie & Johannes F. Schmieder, 2008. "Fetal Exposure to Toxic Releases and Infant Health," NBER Working Papers 14352, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Barreca, Alan I., 2012. "Climate change, humidity, and mortality in the United States," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 19-34.
  7. Olivier Deschênes & Michael Greenstone, 2007. "Climate Change, Mortality, and Adaptation: Evidence from Annual Fluctuations in Weather in the US," NBER Working Papers 13178, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Janet Currie & Reed Walker, 2011. "Traffic Congestion and Infant Health: Evidence from E-ZPass," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 65-90, January.
  9. Douglas Almond & Kenneth Y. Chay & David S. Lee, 2004. "The Costs of Low Birth Weight," NBER Working Papers 10552, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Christopher R. Knittel & Douglas L. Miller & Nicholas J. Sanders, 2011. "Caution, Drivers! Children Present: Traffic, Pollution, and Infant Health," Working Papers 1113, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.
  11. Christopher F Baum & Mark E. Schaffer & Steven Stillman, 2007. "Enhanced routines for instrumental variables/generalized method of moments estimation and testing," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 7(4), pages 465-506, December.
  12. Kenneth Y. Chay & Michael Greenstone, 2003. "Air Quality, Infant Mortality, and the Clean Air Act of 1970," Working Papers 0406, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.
  13. Currie, Janet & Neidell, Matthew & Schmieder, Johannes F., 2009. "Air pollution and infant health: Lessons from New Jersey," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 688-703, May.
  14. Richard Paap & Frank Kleibergen, 2004. "Generalized Reduced Rank Tests using the Singular Value Decomposition," Econometric Society 2004 Australasian Meetings 195, Econometric Society.
  15. Dan Black & Kermit Daniel & Seth Sanders, 2002. "The Impact of Economic Conditions on Participation in Disability Programs: Evidence from the Coal Boom and Bust," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 27-50, March.
  16. Gianmarco I.P. Ottaviano & Giovanni Peri, 2006. "The economic value of cultural diversity: evidence from US cities," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(1), pages 9-44, January.
  17. Chay, Kenneth & Dobkin, Carlos & Greenstone, Michael, 2003. " The Clean Air Act of 1970 and Adult Mortality," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 27(3), pages 279-300, December.
  18. Neidell, Matthew J., 2004. "Air pollution, health, and socio-economic status: the effect of outdoor air quality on childhood asthma," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(6), pages 1209-1236, November.
  19. Saiz, Albert, 2007. "Immigration and housing rents in American cities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 345-371, March.
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Cited by:
  1. Adam Isen & Maya Rossin-Slater & W. Reed Walker, 2013. "Every Breath You Take, Every Dollar You'll Make: The Long-Term Consequences of the Clean Air Act of 1970," Working Papers 13-52, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  2. Joshua Graff Zivin & Matthew Neidell, 2013. "Environment, Health, and Human Capital," NBER Working Papers 18935, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Tess Stafford, 2013. "Indoor Air Quality and Academic Performance," Discussion Papers 2013-25, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.
  4. Janet Currie, 2011. "Inequality at Birth: Some Causes and Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 1-22, May.
  5. Jans, Jenny & Johansson, Per & Nilsson, Peter, 2014. "Economic Status, Air Quality, and Child Health: Evidence from Inversion Episodes," IZA Discussion Papers 7929, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Carnovale, Maria & Gibson, Matthew, 2013. "The Effects of Driving Restrictions on Air Quality and Driver Behavior," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt0v8813qm, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  7. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie, 2011. "Killing Me Softly: The Fetal Origins Hypothesis," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 153-72, Summer.
  8. Christopher R. Knittel & Douglas L. Miller & Nicholas J. Sanders, 2011. "Caution, Drivers! Children Present: Traffic, Pollution, and Infant Health," Working Papers 1113, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.
  9. Nicholas J. Sanders & Charles F. Stoecker, 2011. "Where Have All the Young Men Gone? Using Gender Ratios to Measure Fetal Death Rates," NBER Working Papers 17434, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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