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Bringing Satellite-Based Air Quality Estimates Down to Earth


  • Meredith Fowlie
  • Edward A. Rubin
  • Reed Walker


We use state-of-the-art, satellite-based PM2.5 estimates to assess the extent to which the EPA's existing, monitor-based measurements over- or under-estimate true exposure to PM2.5 pollution. Treating satellite-based estimates as truth implies a substantial number of "policy errors"—over-regulating areas that comply with air quality standards and under-regulating other areas that appear to violate standards. We investigate the health implications of these apparent errors and highlight the importance of accounting for prediction error in satellite-based estimates. Uncertainty in "policy errors" increases substantially when we account for these underlying prediction errors.

Suggested Citation

  • Meredith Fowlie & Edward A. Rubin & Reed Walker, 2019. "Bringing Satellite-Based Air Quality Estimates Down to Earth," NBER Working Papers 25560, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25560
    Note: CH EEE PE

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    JEL classification:

    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • Q50 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - General
    • Q52 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Pollution Control Adoption and Costs; Distributional Effects; Employment Effects
    • 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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