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A New Era of Pollution Progress in Urban China?

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  • Siqi Zheng
  • Matthew E. Kahn

Abstract

Over the last 30 years, China's economy has boomed. This trend has lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty but it has also sharply increased local, regional, and global pollution levels. We look at the rise in air pollution over recent decades, and the perhaps surprising finding that in many of China's urban areas, levels of particulates (of less than 10 microns) have been decreasing during the last 10 to 15 years. We then turn to the costs and tradeoffs of air pollution, including costs to human health, reductions in worker productivity, and how people are seeking to reduce their exposure to pollution as shown by compensating differentials in real estate prices and purchases of masks and air filters. We discuss how rising incomes tend to raise the demand for environmental amenities and thus increase political pressure for environmental protection, and then we turn to the policy tools that China has used to reduce pollution. We conclude by arguing that as China's government is preparing for an additional 300 million people to move to urban areas over the next 30 years, it will have a number of opportunities for China to reduce pollution through a shift from manufacturing to services, along with various steps to improve energy efficiency and resource conservation. Overall, it seems that China is on track to improve its environmental performance in the years ahead.

Suggested Citation

  • Siqi Zheng & Matthew E. Kahn, 2017. "A New Era of Pollution Progress in Urban China?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 31(1), pages 71-92, Winter.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:31:y:2017:i:1:p:71-92
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.31.1.71
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Some Nuances Concerning President Trump's Recent Decision on the Paris Treaty
      by Matthew Kahn in Environmental and Urban Economics on 2017-06-02 18:51:00
    2. China and International Trade in Coal Fired Power Plant Technology
      by Matthew Kahn in Environmental and Urban Economics on 2017-07-02 21:42:00
    3. China's Transition to a Human Capital Economy
      by Matthew Kahn in Environmental and Urban Economics on 2017-08-18 16:30:00
    4. Ecological Economics Makes a Comeback!
      by Matthew Kahn in Environmental and Urban Economics on 2017-10-22 00:35:00
    5. A Quick Summary of My Published Work in 2017
      by Matthew Kahn in Environmental and Urban Economics on 2017-12-20 19:39:00
    6. The Dynamics of the Marginal Cost of Reducing Air Pollution in Beijing, China
      by Matthew Kahn in Environmental and Urban Economics on 2018-01-15 22:09:00

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Randall Morck & Bernard Yeung, 2017. "East Asian Financial and Economic Development," NBER Working Papers 23845, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. repec:eee:chieco:v:47:y:2018:i:c:p:156-169 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Christophe Muller & Huijie Yan, 2018. "Household Fuel Use in Rural China," Working Papers halshs-01735847, HAL.
    4. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:10:p:1880-:d:116134 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • P25 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Urban, Rural, and Regional Economics
    • P28 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Natural Resources; Environment
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy

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