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Air Quality, Infant Mortality, and the Clean Air Act of 1970

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  • Kenneth Y. Chay
  • Michael Greenstone

Abstract

We examine the effects of total suspended particulates (TSPs) air pollution on infant health using the air quality improvements induced by the 1970 Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA). This legislation imposed strict regulations on industrial polluters in nonattainment' counties with TSPs concentrations exceeding the federal ceiling. We use nonattainment status as an instrumental variable for TSPs changes to estimate their impact on infant mortality changes in the first year that the 1970 CAAA was in force. TSPs nonattainment status is associated with sharp reductions in both TSPs pollution and infant mortality from 1971 to 1972. The greater reductions in nonattainment counties near the federal ceiling relative to the attainment' counties narrowly below the ceiling suggest that the regulations are the cause. We estimate that a one percent decline in TSPs results in a 0.5 percent decline in the infant mortality rate. Most of these effects are driven by a reduction in deaths occurring within one month of birth, suggesting that fetal exposure is a potential biological pathway. The results imply that roughly 1,300 fewer infants died in 1972 than would have in the absence of the Clean Air Act.

Suggested Citation

  • Kenneth Y. Chay & Michael Greenstone, 2003. "Air Quality, Infant Mortality, and the Clean Air Act of 1970," NBER Working Papers 10053, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10053
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Joseph G. Altonji & Todd E. Elder & Christopher R. Taber, 2005. "Selection on Observed and Unobserved Variables: Assessing the Effectiveness of Catholic Schools," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(1), pages 151-184, February.
    2. Randy Becker & Vernon Henderson, 2000. "Effects of Air Quality Regulations on Polluting Industries," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(2), pages 379-421, April.
    3. 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.
    4. Orley Ashenfelter & Michael Greenstone, 2004. "Using Mandated Speed Limits to Measure the Value of a Statistical Life," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages 226-267, February.
    5. David M. Cutler & Ellen Meara, 2000. "The Technology of Birth: Is It Worth It?," NBER Chapters,in: Frontiers in Health Policy Research, Volume 3, pages 33-68 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior

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