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The Effect of Air Pollution on Migration: Evidence from China

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  • Shuai Chen
  • Paulina Oliva
  • Peng Zhang

Abstract

This paper looks at the effects of air pollution on migration in China using changes in the average strength of thermal inversions over five-year periods as a source of exogenous variation for medium-run air pollution levels. Our findings suggest that air pollution is responsible for large changes in inflows and outflows of migration in China. More specifically, we find that independent changes in air pollution of the magnitude that occurred in China in the course of our study (between 1996 and 2010) are capable of reducing floating migration inflows by 50 percent and of reducing population through net outmigration by 5 percent in a given county. We find that these inflows are primarily driven by well educated people at the beginning of their professional careers, leading to substantial changes in the sociodemographic composition of the population and labor force of Chinese counties. Our results are robust to different specifications, including simple counts of inversions as instruments, different weather controls, and different forms of error variance.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24036
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Mathilde Maurel & Thomas Pernet-Coudrier, 2020. "New Evidence on the Soft Budget Constraint: Chinese Environmental Policy Effectiveness in Private versus SOEs," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-02469382, HAL.
    2. Mathilde Maurel & Thomas Pernet-Coudrier, 2020. "New Evidence on the Soft Budget Constraint: Chinese Environmental Policy Effectiveness in Private versus SOEs," Post-Print halshs-02469382, HAL.
    3. Freeman, Richard & Liang, Wenquan & Song, Ran & Timmins, Christopher, 2019. "Willingness to pay for clean air in China," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 188-216.
    4. Panle Jia Barwick & Shanjun Li & Liguo Lin & Eric Zou, 2019. "From Fog to Smog: the Value of Pollution Information," NBER Working Papers 26541, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Ying Tung Chan, 2019. "Optimal Environmental Tax Rate in an Open Economy with Labor Migration—An E-DSGE Model Approach," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(19), pages 1-38, September.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth

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