NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Mortality and Medical Costs of Air Pollution: Evidence from Changes in Wind Direction

Tatyana Deryugina, Garth Heutel, Nolan H. Miller, David Molitor, Julian Reif

NBER Working Paper No. 22796
Issued in November 2016, Revised in February 2017
NBER Program(s):EEE, HE, HC

We estimate the effect of acute fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) exposure on mortality and health care utilization among the US elderly, using a novel instrument for air pollution: changes in the local wind direction. We find that increases in daily PM 2.5 concentrations raise three-day county-level mortality, hospitalizations, and inpatient spending. We then develop a new methodology that uses machine learning to estimate the number of life-years lost due to PM 2.5. Our estimate is much smaller than one calculated using traditional methods, which do not adequately account for the relatively low life expectancy of those killed by pollution.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22796

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