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Politicians, Pollution and Performance in the Workplace: The Effect of PM on MPs

Author

Listed:
  • Anthony Heyes

    (Department of Economics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON)

  • Nicholas Rivers

    (Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and Institute of the Environment, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON)

  • Brandon Schaufele

    (Business, Economics and Public Policy, Ivey Business School, University of Western Ontario, London, ON)

Abstract

Applying methods of textual and stylometric analysis to all 119,225 speeches made in the Canadian House of Commons between 2006 and 2011, we establish that air pollution reduces the speech quality of Canadian Members of Parliament (MPs). Exposure to fine particulate matter concentrations exceeding 15µg=m3 causes a 3.1 percent reduction in the quality of MPs speech (equivalent to a 3.6 months of education). For more difficult communication tasks the decrement in quality is equivalent to the loss of 6.5 months of schooling. Our design accounts for the potential endogeneity of exposure and controls for many potential confounders including individual fixed effects. Politicians are professional communicators and as such the analysis provides further evidence of the detrimental impact of air pollution on workplace performance, with an effect size around half that established in recent research for workers engaged in physical work tasks. Insofar as the changed speech patterns reflect diminished mental acuity the results make plausible substantial effects of air pollution on productivity not just in communication-intensive but a wider set of creative and cognitively-intensive work settings.

Suggested Citation

  • Anthony Heyes & Nicholas Rivers & Brandon Schaufele, 2016. "Politicians, Pollution and Performance in the Workplace: The Effect of PM on MPs," Working Papers 1616E, University of Ottawa, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ott:wpaper:1616e
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Shihe Fu & V. Brian Viard, 2021. "A Mayor’s Perspective on Tackling Air Pollution," GRU Working Paper Series GRU_2021_009, City University of Hong Kong, Department of Economics and Finance, Global Research Unit.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Air Pollution; Analysis of Speech; Non-Health Impacts; Workplace Performance;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • 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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