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Alerts Work! Air Quality Warnings and Cycling


  • Anthony Heyes

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

  • Nicholas Rivers

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

  • Soodeh Saberian

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


Alert programs are central to strategies to reduce the health impacts of air pollution in many jurisdictions. Evidence that they work, however, is sparse - indeed the majority of published studies fail to find a significant impact of alerts on behavior. Alerts particularly seek to influence energetic cardio-vascular outdoor pursuits. This study is the first to use administrative data to show that alerts are effective in reducing participation in such a pursuit (namely cycle use in Sydney, Australia) and, to our knowledge, the first showing alerts to be effective in changing ANY behavior in a non-US setting. The behavioral responses are substantial, generally in the range of 14 to 35%. The results are robust to the inclusion of a battery of controls in various combinations, alternative estimation methods and non-linear specifications. We develop various sub-sample results and also find evidence of alert fatigue.

Suggested Citation

  • Anthony Heyes & Nicholas Rivers & Soodeh Saberian, 2015. "Alerts Work! Air Quality Warnings and Cycling," Working Papers E1502E, University of Ottawa, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ott:wpaper:e1502e

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    6. Marie Connolly, 2008. "Here Comes the Rain Again: Weather and the Intertemporal Substitution of Leisure," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26, pages 73-100.
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    8. Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2010. "The Needs of the Army: Using Compulsory Relocation in the Military to Estimate the Effect of Air Pollutants on Children’s Health," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 45(3).
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    Cited by:

    1. Laffan, Kate, 2018. "Every breath you take, every move you make: Visits to the outdoors and physical activity help to explain the relationship between air pollution and subjective wellbeing," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 96-113.
    2. Williams, Austin M., 2019. "Understanding the micro-determinants of defensive behaviors against pollution," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 163(C), pages 42-51.
    3. Tong Liu & Guojun He & Alexis Lau, 2018. "Avoidance behavior against air pollution: evidence from online search indices for anti-PM2.5 masks and air filters in Chinese cities," Environmental Economics and Policy Studies, Springer;Society for Environmental Economics and Policy Studies - SEEPS, vol. 20(2), pages 325-363, April.
    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.

    More about this item


    Information-based regulation; averting behavior; urban air quality; health impacts of air pollution;

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy


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