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What Caused Racial Disparities in Particulate Exposure to Fall? New Evidence from the Clean Air Act and Satellite-Based Measures of Air Quality

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  • Janet Currie
  • John Voorheis
  • Reed Walker

Abstract

Racial differences in exposure to ambient air pollution have declined significantly in the United States over the past 20 years. This project links administrative Census microdata to newly available, spatially continuous high resolution measures of ambient particulate pollution (PM2.5) to examine the underlying causes and consequences of differences in Black-White pollution exposures. We begin by decomposing differences in pollution exposure into components explained by observable population characteristics (e.g., income) versus those that remain unexplained. We then use quantile regression methods to show that a significant portion of the “unexplained” convergence in Black-White pollution exposure can be attributed to differential impacts of the Clean Air Act (CAA) in African American and non-Hispanic White communities. Areas with larger Black populations saw greater CAA-related declines in PM2.5 exposure. We show that the CAA has been the single largest contributor to racial convergence in PM2.5 pollution exposure in the U.S. since 2000 accounting for over 60 percent of the reduction.

Suggested Citation

  • Janet Currie & John Voorheis & Reed Walker, 2020. "What Caused Racial Disparities in Particulate Exposure to Fall? New Evidence from the Clean Air Act and Satellite-Based Measures of Air Quality," NBER Working Papers 26659, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26659
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    1. DiNardo, John & Fortin, Nicole M & Lemieux, Thomas, 1996. "Labor Market Institutions and the Distribution of Wages, 1973-1992: A Semiparametric Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(5), pages 1001-1044, September.
    2. Logan, Trevon D. & Parman, John M., 2017. "The National Rise in Residential Segregation," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 77(1), pages 127-170, March.
    3. Paul Mohai & Robin Saha, 2006. "Reassessing racial and socioeconomic disparities in environmental justice research," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 43(2), pages 383-399, May.
    4. Meredith Fowlie & Edward Rubin & Reed Walker, 2019. "Bringing Satellite-Based Air Quality Estimates Down to Earth," AEA Papers and Proceedings, American Economic Association, vol. 109, pages 283-288, May.
    5. John Voorheis, 2017. "Longitudinal Environmental Inequality and Environmental Gentrification: Who Gains From Cleaner Air?," CARRA Working Papers 2017-04, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    6. Kenneth Y. Chay & Michael Greenstone, 2003. "Air Quality, Infant Mortality, and the Clean Air Act of 1970," Working Papers 0406, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.
    7. Brooks Depro & Christopher Timmins & Maggie O'Neil, 2015. "White Flight and Coming to the Nuisance: Can Residential Mobility Explain Environmental Injustice?," Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(3), pages 439-468.
    8. Janet Currie & Reed Walker, 2019. "What Do Economists Have to Say about the Clean Air Act 50 Years after the Establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 3-26, Fall.
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    As found on the RePEc Biblio, the curated bibliography for Economics:
    1. > Environmental and Natural Resource Economics > Environmental Economics > Environmental justice

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    Cited by:

    1. Carolyn Fischer & Grant D. Jacobsen, 2021. "The Green New Deal And The Future Of Carbon Pricing," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 40(3), pages 988-995, June.
    2. Hollingsworth, Alex & Konisky, David & Zirogiannis, Nikos, 2021. "The health consequences of excess emissions: Evidence from Texas," OSF Preprints gc73x, Center for Open Science.
    3. Li, Huan & Zhang, Ruohao & Khanna, Neha, 2021. "Environmental Justice: A Multigenerational Perspective," 2021 Annual Meeting, August 1-3, Austin, Texas 313873, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    4. Jill Furzer & Boriana Miloucheva, 2020. "The Long Arm of the Clean Air Act: Pollution Abatement and COVID-19 Racial Disparities," Working Papers tecipa-668, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
    5. Jonathan Colmer & John Voorheis, 2020. "The Grandkids Aren't Alright: The Intergenerational Effects of Prenatal Pollution Exposure," Working Papers 20-36, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    6. Gillingham, Kenneth & Huang, Pei, 2021. "Racial disparities in the health effects from air pollution: Evidence from ports," ZEW Discussion Papers 21-058, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    7. Hollingsworth, Alex J. & Konisky, David M. & Zirogiannis, Nikolaos, 2021. "The health consequences of excess emissions: Evidence from Texas," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 108(C).
    8. Singh, Tejendra Pratap & Visaria, Sujata, 2021. "Up in the Air: Air Pollution and Crime – Evidence from India," SocArXiv hs4xj, Center for Open Science.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • 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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