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Does Pollution Increase School Absences?


  • Janet Currie

    (Columbia University)

  • Eric A. Hanushek

    (Stanford University)

  • E. Megan Kahn

    (Amherst College)

  • Matthew Neidell

    (Columbia University)

  • Steven G. Rivkin

    (Amherst College)


We examine the effect of air pollution on school absences using administrative data for elementary and middle school children in 39 of the largest school districts in Texas merged with air quality information maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency. We address potentially confounding factors with a difference-in-difference-in-differences strategy that controls for persistent characteristics of schools, years, and attendance periods. Of the pollutants considered, we find that high carbon monoxide (CO) levels, even when below federal air quality standards, significantly increase absences. Our results suggest that the substantial decline in CO levels over the past two decades has yielded economically significant health benefits. Copyright by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Janet Currie & Eric A. Hanushek & E. Megan Kahn & Matthew Neidell & Steven G. Rivkin, 2009. "Does Pollution Increase School Absences?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(4), pages 682-694, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:91:y:2009:i:4:p:682-694

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Manuel Pastor Jr & James L Sadd & Rachel Morello-Frosch, 2004. "Reading, Writing, and Toxics: Children's Health, Academic Performance, and Environmental Justice in Los Angeles," Environment and Planning C, , vol. 22(2), pages 271-290, April.
    2. Kenneth Y. Chay & Michael Greenstone, 2003. "The Impact of Air Pollution on Infant Mortality: Evidence from Geographic Variation in Pollution Shocks Induced by a Recession," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1121-1167.
    3. 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.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects


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