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East Side Story: Historical Pollution and Persistent Neighborhood Sorting

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  • Stephan Heblich
  • Alex Trew
  • Yanos Zylberberg

Abstract

Why are the East sides of former industrial cities like London or New York poorer and more deprived? We argue that this observation is the most visible consequence of the historically unequal distribution of air pollutants across neighborhoods. In this paper, we geolocate nearly 5,000 industrial chimneys in 70 English cities in 1880 and use an atmospheric dispersion model to recreate the spatial distribution of pollution. First, individual-level census data show that pollution induced neighborhood sorting during the course of the nineteenth century. Historical pollution patterns explain up to 15% of within-city deprivation in 1881. Second, these equilibria persist to this day even though the pollution that initially caused them has waned. A quantitative model shows the role of non-linearities and tipping-like dynamics in such persistence.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephan Heblich & Alex Trew & Yanos Zylberberg, 2016. "East Side Story: Historical Pollution and Persistent Neighborhood Sorting," SERC Discussion Papers 0208, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:sercdp:0208
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    Cited by:

    1. Olivier Deschenes & Kyle C. Meng, 2018. "Quasi-Experimental Methods in Environmental Economics: Opportunities and Challenges," NBER Working Papers 24903, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Bailey, Roy E. & Hatton, Timothy J. & Inwood, Kris, 2016. "Atmospheric Pollution and Child Health in Late Nineteenth Century Britain," IZA Discussion Papers 10428, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Gabriel Ahlfeldt & Fabian Bald & Duncan Roth & Tobias Seidel, 2020. "Quality of Life in a Dynamic Spatial Model," CESifo Working Paper Series 8767, CESifo.
    4. W. Walker Hanlon, 2016. "Coal Smoke and the Costs of the Industrial Revolution," NBER Working Papers 22921, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Jasper N. Meya, 0. "Environmental Inequality and Economic Valuation," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 0, pages 1-36.
    6. Carozzi, Felipe & Roth, Sefi, 2020. "Dirty Density: Air Quality and the Density of American Cities," IZA Discussion Papers 13191, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. W Walker Hanlon, 2020. "Coal Smoke, City Growth, and the Costs of the Industrial Revolution," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 130(626), pages 462-488.
    8. Jasper N. Meya, 2018. "Environmental Inequality and Economic Valuation," Working Papers V-416-18, University of Oldenburg, Department of Economics, revised Dec 2018.
    9. Jasper N. Meya, 2020. "Environmental Inequality and Economic Valuation," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 76(2), pages 235-270, July.
    10. Shuai Chen & Paulina Oliva & Peng Zhang, 2017. "The Effect of Air Pollution on Migration: Evidence from China," NBER Working Papers 24036, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Neighborhood sorting; historical pollution; deprivation; persistence; environmental disamenity;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • N90 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - General, International, or Comparative

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