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Gray Matters: Fetal Pollution Exposure and Human Capital Formation

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Abstract

This paper examines the impact of fetal exposure to air pollution on 4th grade test scores in Santiago, Chile. We rely on comparisons across siblings which address concerns about locational sorting and all other time-invariant family characteristics that can lead to endogenous exposure to poor environmental quality. We also exploit data on air quality alerts to help address concerns related to short-run time-varying avoidance behavior, which has been shown to be important in a number of other contexts. We find a strong negative effect from fetal exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) on math and language skills measured in 4th grade. These effects are economically significant and our back of the envelope calculations suggest that the 50% reduction in CO in Santiago between 1990 and 2005 increased lifetime earnings by approximately 100 million USD per birth cohort.

Suggested Citation

  • Prashant Bharadwaj & Matthew Gibson & Joshua Graff Zivin & Christopher Neilson, 2016. "Gray Matters: Fetal Pollution Exposure and Human Capital Formation," Department of Economics Working Papers 2016-01, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  • Handle: RePEc:wil:wileco:2016-01
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    human capital; air pollution; avoidance behavior; carbon monoxide;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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