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Early Exposure to Hazardous Waste and Academic Achievement: Evidence from a Case of Environmental Negligence

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  • Tomás Rau
  • Sergio Urzúa
  • Loreto Reyes

Abstract

This paper estimates the effect of early exposure to toxic waste on academic achievement. We analyze longitudinal information from individuals attending primary and secondary schools in Arica (northern Chile). Between 1984 and 1989, the city received more than 20,000 tons of toxic chemicals containing high concentrations of lead, arsenic, and mercury. We implement difference-in-differences and reduced-form models to document robust relationships between residential and school proximity to the polluted area and academic performance. We find that attending a school 1 kilometer farther away from the polluted area significantly increases math and language scores by 0.09 and 0.07 standard deviations, respectively. Finally, we use georeferenced blood tests and administrative records on labor income to estimate that children living in the area could lose up to US$60,000 over the course of their lifetime as a result of their early life exposure to toxic waste.

Suggested Citation

  • Tomás Rau & Sergio Urzúa & Loreto Reyes, 2015. "Early Exposure to Hazardous Waste and Academic Achievement: Evidence from a Case of Environmental Negligence," Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(4), pages 527-563.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jaerec:doi:10.1086/683112
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Manuel Barron, 2018. "In-utero weather shocks and learning outcomes," Working Papers 137, Peruvian Economic Association.
    2. Clay, Karen & Portnykh, Margarita & Severnini, Edson R., 2018. "Toxic Truth: Lead and Fertility," IZA Discussion Papers 11541, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. John Voorheis, 2017. "Air Quality, Human Capital Formation and the Long-term Effects of Environmental Inequality at Birth," CARRA Working Papers 2017-05, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    4. Aggeborn, Linuz & Öhman, Mattias, 2017. "The Effects of Fluoride in the Drinking Water," Working Paper Series 2017:20, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    5. Clay, Karen & Portnykh, Margarita & Severnini, Edson R., 2019. "The Legacy Lead Deposition in Soils and Its Impact on Cognitive Function in Preschool-Aged Children in the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 12178, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    6. Manuel Barron & Sam Heft-Neal & Tania Perez, 2018. "Long-term effects of weather during gestation on education and labor outcomes: Evidence from Peru," Working Papers 134, Peruvian Economic Association.

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