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Geographic and Socioeconomic Heterogeneity in the Benefits of Reducing Air Pollution in the United States

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

NBER Working Paper No. 27357
Issued in June 2020
NBER Program(s):Economics of Aging, Environment and Energy Economics, Health Care, Health Economics, Public Economics

Policies aimed at reducing the harmful effects of air pollution exposure typically focus on areas with high levels of pollution. However, if a population’s vulnerability to air pollution is imperfectly correlated with current pollution levels, then this approach to air quality regulation may not efficiently target pollution reduction efforts. We examine the geographic and socioeconomic determinants of vulnerability to dying from acute exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution. We find that there is substantial local and regional variability in the share of individuals who are vulnerable to pollution both at the county and ZIP code level. Vulnerability tends to be negatively related to health and socioeconomic status. Surprisingly, we find that vulnerability is also negatively related to an area’s average PM2.5 pollution level, suggesting that basing air quality regulation only on current pollution levels may fail to effectively target regions with the most to gain by reducing exposure.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w27357

Forthcoming: Geographic and Socioeconomic Heterogeneity in the Benefits of Reducing Air Pollution in the United States, Tatyana Deryugina, Nolan Miller, David Molitor, Julian Reif. in Environmental and Energy Policy and the Economy, volume 2, Kotchen, Stock, and Wolfram. 2020

 
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