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The Mortality and Medical Costs of Air Pollution: Evidence from Changes in Wind Direction


  • Tatyana Deryugina
  • Garth Heutel
  • Nolan H. Miller
  • David Molitor
  • Julian Reif


We estimate the causal effects of acute fine particulate matter exposure on mortality, health care use, and medical costs among the US elderly using Medicare data and a novel instrument for air pollution: changes in local wind direction. We develop a new approach that uses machine learning to estimate the life-years lost due to pollution exposure and show that our procedure reduces bias relative to previous methods. Finally, we characterize treatment effect heterogeneity using both life expectancy and generic machine learning inference. Both approaches find that mortality effects are concentrated in about 25 percent of the elderly population.

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  • Tatyana Deryugina & Garth Heutel & Nolan H. Miller & David Molitor & Julian Reif, 2016. "The Mortality and Medical Costs of Air Pollution: Evidence from Changes in Wind Direction," NBER Working Papers 22796, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22796
    Note: EEE HE HC

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    1. Olivier Deschênes & Michael Greenstone, 2011. "Climate Change, Mortality, and Adaptation: Evidence from Annual Fluctuations in Weather in the US," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 152-185, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alan I. Barreca & Matthew Neidell & Nicholas J. Sanders, 2017. "Long-Run Pollution Exposure and Adult Mortality: Evidence from the Acid Rain Program," NBER Working Papers 23524, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Karlsson, Martin & Ziebarth, Nicolas R., 2018. "Population health effects and health-related costs of extreme temperatures: Comprehensive evidence from Germany," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 93-117.
    3. Borgschulte, Mark & Vogler, Jacob, 2019. "Did the ACA Medicaid Expansion Save Lives?," IZA Discussion Papers 12552, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Tidiane Ly, 2019. "Taxes, traffic jam and spillover in the metropolis," IdEP Economic Papers 1903, USI Università della Svizzera italiana.
    5. Diane Alexander & Hannes Schwandt, 2019. "The Impact of Car Pollution on Infant and Child Health: Evidence from Emissions Cheating," Working Paper Series WP-2019-4, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    6. Deschenes, Olivier & Wang, Huixia & Wang, Si & Zhang, Peng, 2019. "The Effect of Air Pollution on Body Weight and Obesity: Evidence from China," IZA Discussion Papers 12296, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. Fu, Shihe & Viard, Brian & Zhang, Peng, 2017. "Air Quality and Manufacturing Firm Productivity: Comprehensive Evidence from China," MPRA Paper 78914, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Barrows, Geoffrey & Garg, Teevrat & Jha, Akshaya, 2019. "The Health Costs of Coal-Fired Power Plants in India," IZA Discussion Papers 12838, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    9. Nicholas Z. Muller, 2020. "Long-Run Environmental Accounting in the US Economy," Environmental and Energy Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 158-191.
    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.
    11. Bondy, Malvina & Roth, Sefi & Sager, Lutz, 2018. "Crime is in the Air: The Contemporaneous Relationship between Air Pollution and Crime," IZA Discussion Papers 11492, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    12. Matilde Giaccherini & Joanna Kopinska & Alessandro Palma, 2019. "When Particulate Matter Strikes Cities: Social Disparities and Health Costs of Air Pollution," CEIS Research Paper 467, Tor Vergata University, CEIS, revised 07 Oct 2019.
    13. Max Brüning & Josselin Thuilliez, 2019. "Mortality and Macroeconomic Conditions: What Can We Learn From France?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 56(5), pages 1747-1764, October.
    14. A. Godzinski & M. Suarez Castillo, 2019. "Short-term health effects of public transport disruptions: air pollution and viral spread channels," Documents de Travail de l'Insee - INSEE Working Papers g2019-03, Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques.
    15. Huh, Jason & Reif, Julian, 2017. "Did Medicare Part D reduce mortality?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 17-37.
    16. Joseph E. Aldy & Maximilian Auffhammer & Maureen L. Cropper & Arthur G. Fraas & Richard Morgenstern, 2020. "Looking Back at Fifty Years of the Clean Air Act," NBER Working Papers 26687, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling

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