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The Consequences of Industrialization: Evidence from Water Pollution and Digestive Cancers in China


  • Avraham Ebenstein

    (University of Jerusalem)


China's rapid industrialization has led to a severe deterioration in water quality in the country's lakes and rivers. By exploiting variation in pollution across China's river basins, I estimate that a deterioration of water quality by a single grade (on a six-grade scale) increases the digestive cancer death rate by 9.7%. The analysis rules out other potential explanations such as smoking rates, dietary patterns, and air pollution. I estimate that doubling China's levy rates for wastewater dumping would save roughly 17,000 lives per year but require an additional [dollar]500 million in annual spending on wastewater treatment. © 2011 The President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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  • Avraham Ebenstein, 2012. "The Consequences of Industrialization: Evidence from Water Pollution and Digestive Cancers in China," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 186-201, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:94:y:2012:i:1:p:186-201

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    1. Gourdon, Julien & Monjon, Stéphanie & Poncet, Sandra, 2016. "Trade policy and industrial policy in China: What motivates public authorities to apply restrictions on exports?," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 105-120.
    2. Joshua Graff Zivin & Matthew Neidell, 2013. "Environment, Health, and Human Capital," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 51(3), pages 689-730, September.
    3. W. Walker Hanlon & Yuan Tian, 2015. "Killer Cities: Past and Present," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 570-575, May.
    4. Iris Claus & Les Oxley & Siqi Zheng & Cong Sun & Ye Qi & Matthew E. Kahn, 2014. "The Evolving Geography Of China'S Industrial Production: Implications For Pollution Dynamics And Urban Quality Of Life," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 28(4), pages 709-724, September.
    5. Liu, Ying & Huang, Jikun & Zikhali, Precious, 2016. "The bittersweet fruits of industrialization in rural China: The cost of environment and the benefit from off-farm employment," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 1-10.
    6. repec:eee:ecolec:v:142:y:2017:i:c:p:130-147 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Krupnick, Alan & Wang, Zhongmin & Wang, Yushuang, 2014. "Environmental risks of shale gas development in China," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 117-125.
    8. Elizabeth Brainerd, 2012. "Seasonal Effects of Water Quality on Infant and Child Health in India," Working Papers id:5119, eSocialSciences.
    9. Achyuta Adhvaryu & Prashant Bharadwaj & James Fenske & Anant Nyshadham & Richard Stanley, 2016. "Dust and Death: Evidence from the West African Harmattan," CSAE Working Paper Series 2016-03, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
    10. Brainerd, Elizabeth & Menon, Nidhiya, 2014. "Seasonal effects of water quality: The hidden costs of the Green Revolution to infant and child health in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 49-64.
    11. Wei, Xinjie & Lin, Wanlong & Hennessy, David A., 2015. "Biosecurity and disease management in China’s animal agriculture sector," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 52-64.
    12. Jiang, Liangliang & Lin, Chen & Lin, Ping, 2014. "The determinants of pollution levels: Firm-level evidence from Chinese manufacturing," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 118-142.
    13. Siqi Zheng & Matthew E. Kahn, 2013. "Understanding China's Urban Pollution Dynamics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 51(3), pages 731-772, September.
    14. David A. Keiser & Joseph S. Shapiro, 2017. "Consequences of the Clean Water Act and the Demand for Water Quality," NBER Working Papers 23070, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Avraham Ebenstein & Jian Zhang & Margaret S. McMillan & Kevin Chen, 2011. "Chemical Fertilizer and Migration in China," NBER Working Papers 17245, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. repec:eee:jeeman:v:86:y:2017:i:c:p:93-120 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Huixuan Li & Yingru Li & Ming-Kuo Lee & Zhongwei Liu & Changhong Miao, 2015. "Spatiotemporal Analysis of Heavy Metal Water Pollution in Transitional China," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(7), pages 1-21, July.
    18. Andreas Schaefer, 2016. "Survival to Adulthood and the Growth Drag of Pollution," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 16/241, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
    19. Christopher Hansman & Jonas Hjort & Gianmarco León, 2015. "Firm's response and unintended health consequences of industrial regulations," Economics Working Papers 1469, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    20. Matthew E. Kahn & Pei Li & Daxuan Zhao, 2013. "Pollution Control Effort at China's River Borders: When Does Free Riding Cease?," NBER Working Papers 19620, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Wu, Haoyi & Guo, Huanxiu & Zhang, Bing & Bu, Maoliang, 2017. "Westward movement of new polluting firms in China: Pollution reduction mandates and location choice," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 119-138.
    22. Brian Feld & Sebastian Galiani, 2015. "Climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean: policy options and research priorities," Latin American Economic Review, Springer;Centro de Investigaciòn y Docencia Económica (CIDE), vol. 24(1), pages 1-39, December.

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