NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Coal, Smoke, and Death: Bituminous Coal and American Home Heating

Alan Barreca, Karen Clay, Joel Tarr

NBER Working Paper No. 19881
Issued in February 2014
NBER Program(s):CH, DAE, EEE

Air pollution was severe in many urban areas of the United States in the first half of the twentieth century, in part due to the burning of bituminous coal for heat. We estimate the effects of this bituminous coal consumption on mortality rates in the U.S. during the mid 20th century. Coal consumption varied considerably during the 20th century due to coal-labor strikes, wartime oil and gas restrictions, and the expansion of gas pipelines, among other reasons. To mitigate the influence of confounding factors, we use a triple-differences identification strategy that relies on variation in coal consumption at the state-year-season level. It exploits the fact that coal consumption for heating was highest in the winter and uses within-state changes in mortality in non-winter months as an additional control group. Our estimates suggest that reductions in the use of bituminous coal for heating between 1945 and 1960 decreased winter all-age mortality by 1.25 percent and winter infant mortality by 3.27 percent, saving 1,923 all age lives per winter month and 310 infant lives per winter month. Our estimates are likely to be a lower bound, since they primarily capture short-run relationships between coal and mortality.

download in pdf format
   (1288 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19881

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Barreca, Clay, Deschenes, Greenstone, and Shapiro w18692 Adapting to Climate Change: The Remarkable Decline in the U.S. Temperature-Mortality Relationship over the 20th Century
von Hinke Kessler Scholde, Wehby, Lewis, and Zuccolo w19839 Alcohol Exposure In Utero and Child Academic Achievement
Clay, Troesken, and Haines w16480 Lead and Mortality
Isen, Rossin-Slater, and Walker w19858 Every Breath You Take - Every Dollar You'll Make: The Long-Term Consequences of the Clean Air Act of 1970
Pinkovskiy and Sala-i-Martin w19831 Lights, Camera,... Income!: Estimating Poverty Using National Accounts, Survey Means, and Lights
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Themes
Data
People
About

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us