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Coal Smoke and the Costs of the Industrial Revolution

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  • W. Walker Hanlon

Abstract

While the Industrial Revolution brought economic growth, there is a long debate in economics over the costs of the pollution externalities that accompanied early industrialization. To help settle this debate, this paper introduces a new theoretically-grounded strategy for estimating the impact of industrial pollution on local economic development and applies this approach to data from British cities for 1851-1911. I show that local industrial coal use substantially reduced long-run city employment growth over this period. Moreover, a counterfactual analysis suggests that plausible improvements in coal use efficiency would have led to substantially higher urbanization rates in Britain by 1911.

Suggested Citation

  • W. Walker Hanlon, 2016. "Coal Smoke and the Costs of the Industrial Revolution," NBER Working Papers 22921, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22921
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. 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).
    2. Kyle C. Meng, 2016. "Estimating Path Dependence in Energy Transitions," NBER Working Papers 22536, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Siqi Zheng & Matthew E. Kahn, 2017. "A New Era of Pollution Progress in Urban China?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 31(1), pages 71-92, Winter.
    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. 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.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N53 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • Q52 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Pollution Control Adoption and Costs; Distributional Effects; Employment Effects
    • R11 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Regional Economic Activity: Growth, Development, Environmental Issues, and Changes

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