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Coal, Smoke, and Death: Bituminous Coal and American Home Heating

Author

Listed:
  • Barreca, Alan I.

    () (University of California, Los Angeles)

  • Clay, Karen

    () (Carnegie Mellon University)

  • Tarr, Joel

    () (Carnegie Mellon University)

Abstract

Air pollution was severe in many urban areas of the United States in the first half of the twentieth century, in part due to the burning of bituminous coal for heat. We estimate the effects of this bituminous coal consumption on mortality rates in the U.S. during the mid-20th century. Coal consumption varied considerably during the 20th century due to coal-labor strikes, wartime oil and gas restrictions, and the expansion of gas pipelines, among other reasons. To mitigate the influence of confounding factors, we use a triple-differences identification strategy that relies on variation in coal consumption at the state-year-season level. It exploits the fact that coal consumption for heating was highest in the winter and uses within-state changes in mortality in non-winter months as an additional control group. Our estimates suggest that reductions in the use of bituminous coal for heating between 1945 and 1960 decreased winter all-age mortality by 1.25 percent and winter infant mortality by 3.27 percent, saving 1,923 all age lives per winter month and 310 infant lives per winter month. Our estimates are likely to be a lower bound, since they primarily capture short-run relationships between coal and mortality.

Suggested Citation

  • Barreca, Alan I. & Clay, Karen & Tarr, Joel, 2014. "Coal, Smoke, and Death: Bituminous Coal and American Home Heating," IZA Discussion Papers 7987, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7987
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Eva Arceo & Rema Hanna & Paulina Oliva, 2016. "Does the Effect of Pollution on Infant Mortality Differ Between Developing and Developed Countries? Evidence from Mexico City," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 126(591), pages 257-280, March.
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    5. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Resul Cesur & Erdal Tekin & Aydogan Ulker, 2016. "Can Natural Gas Save Lives? Evidence from the Deployment of a Fuel Delivery System in a Developing Country," NBER Working Papers 22522, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Clay, Karen & Lewis, Joshua & Severnini, Edson R., 2016. "Canary in a Coal Mine: Infant Mortality, Property Values, and Tradeoffs Associated with Mid-20th Century Air Pollution," IZA Discussion Papers 9884, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    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. Stephan Heblich & Alex Trew & Yanos Zylberberg, 2016. "East Side Story: Historical Pollution and Persistent Neighborhood Sorting," CESifo Working Paper Series 6166, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. Kahn, Matthew E. & Walsh, Randall, 2015. "Cities and the Environment," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.
    6. W. Walker Hanlon, 2018. "London Fog: A Century of Pollution and Mortality, 1866-1965," NBER Working Papers 24488, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. W. Walker Hanlon, 2016. "Coal Smoke and the Costs of the Industrial Revolution," NBER Working Papers 22921, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. W. Walker Hanlon, 2015. "Pollution and Mortality in the 19th Century," NBER Working Papers 21647, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    air pollution; coal; mortality; infant mortality; heating;

    JEL classification:

    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • N72 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N52 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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