NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Air Pollution and Procyclical Mortality

Garth Heutel, Christopher J. Ruhm

NBER Working Paper No. 18959
Issued in April 2013
NBER Program(s):   EEE   EFG   HE

Prior research demonstrates that mortality rates increase during economic booms and decrease during economic busts, but little analysis has been conducted investigating the role of environmental risks as potential mechanisms for this relationship. We investigate the contribution of air pollution to the procyclicality of deaths by combining state-level data on overall, cause-specific, and age-specific mortality rates with state-level measures of ambient concentrations of three types of pollutants and the unemployment rate. After controlling for demographic variables and state and year fixed-effects, we find a significant positive correlation between carbon monoxide (CO) concentrations and mortality rates. Controlling for CO, particulate matter (PM10), and ozone (O3) attenuates the relationship between overall mortality and the unemployment rate by 30 percent. The attenuation is particularly large, although imprecisely measured, for fatalities from respiratory diseases and is frequently substantial for age groups unlikely to be involved in the labor market. Our results are consistent with those of other studies in the economics and public health literatures measuring the mortality effects of air pollution.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18959

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