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Sugar Cane Burning and Human Health: a Spatial Difference –in-Difference Analysis


  • André Luis Squarize Chagas
  • Alexandre N. Almeida, Carlos Roberto Azzoni


The production of ethanol and sugar from sugar cane has sharply increased in Brazil in the last 20 years, in a process of substitution of biofuel for fossil fuels. The increase in the production and the expansion of the cultivated area might have impacts on human health and employment, especially at the regional level. So far, the harvest is basically manual, involving low-skill workers. The burning of the cane is meant to increase labor productivity and has been traditionally executed. However, the burning generates a massive quantity of smoke that spread in the region, reaching neighboring cities, thus becoming a potential threat to the human health. The objective of this paper is to measure the impact of burning on respiratory problems of children, teenagers and elderly people. We work with a balanced panel of 644 municipalities, from 2002 to 2011. We use a spatial difference-in-difference technique, to control for the effect of sugarcane burning on non-producing regions in the vicinity of producing regions. We conclude that sugar cane burning significantly increases the incidence of respiratory problems in producing regions. The use of a spatial diff-in-diff model allowed us to find out that the effect on non-producing nearby regions is also significant and quantitatively relevant, at least 66% of the effect on producing regions.

Suggested Citation

  • André Luis Squarize Chagas & Alexandre N. Almeida, Carlos Roberto Azzoni, 2014. "Sugar Cane Burning and Human Health: a Spatial Difference –in-Difference Analysis," Working Papers, Department of Economics 2014_20, University of São Paulo (FEA-USP).
  • Handle: RePEc:spa:wpaper:2014wpecon20

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    Cited by:

    1. Marcos A. Rangel & Tom Vogl, 2016. "Agricultural Fires and Infant Health," NBER Working Papers 22955, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Marcos A. Rangel & Tom S. Vogl, 2016. "Agricultural Fires and Infant Health," Working Papers rangel_vogl_fires.pdf, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
    3. Canavire-Bacarreza, Gustavo & Díaz Serrano, Lluís & Corrales-Espinosa, Alejandro, 2018. "The Impact of Public Libraries on School Achievement: The Case of Medellin," Working Papers 2072/351580, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Department of Economics.
    4. Marcos A. Rangel & Tom S. Vogl, 2019. "Agricultural Fires and Health at Birth," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 101(4), pages 616-630, October.

    More about this item


    Sugar Cane Burning; Health Condition; Spatial Econometrics;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General
    • C21 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models
    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy; Animal Welfare Policy

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