Panle Jia Barwick, Shanjun Li, Deyu Rao, Nahim Bin Zahur, 04 September 2018

Air pollution is a serious concern for China. National levels of fine particular matter are well above recommended standards, and the average concentration across China’s thirteen largest cities is 30% higher than the national average. This column examines the relationship between health spending in China and air pollution, showing that health spending increases significantly during the two months following exposure to air pollution. A reduction of fine particular matter by about 20% from the current level could result in annual savings of 60 billion yuan in healthcare expenditure.

Emilia Simeonova, Janet Currie, J Peter Nilsson, Reed Walker, 08 July 2018

Traffic congestion is a major problem for urban centres. Among various negative externalities, traffic creates substantial pollution which can impact the health of residents. This column explores how the implementation of a congestion pricing zone affected the health of children in Stockholm. The programme saw short-term reductions in common traffic pollutants and an accompanying decrease in children’s hospital visits for acute asthma. This decrease grew larger the longer the tax was in place. 

Amyra Asamoah, Emine Hanedar, Baoping Shang, 12 June 2017

Despite a growing consensus in favour of reform of costly and environmentally damaging energy price subsidies, many countries remain resistant. This column takes stock of recent developments using an updated energy price database. Environmental concerns seem to be playing a larger role in driving reform, but most reforming countries are found to have been facing large fiscal imbalances. These countries may need additional, deeper measures for the reforms to last.

Matthew Kahn, Cong Sun, Siqi Zheng, 08 July 2015

China’s cities suffer from extremely high levels of air pollution, and Chinese consumers spend more than $US100 million on anti-smog products per year. Using recent internet sales data, this column explores how investing in such self-protection products varies for consumers with different income brackets. The urban poor are shown to be less likely to engage in this health-improving strategy. This suggests that cross-sectional income comparisons understate lifetime inequality.

Áureo De Paula, John Lynham, Timothy Halliday, 22 June 2015

For policy to target air pollution optimally, a thorough understanding of its harms is required. However, disentangling the health effects of specific pollutants has proved challenging, as multiple chemicals tend to co-occur in industrial pollution. This column exploits volcanic emissions in Hawaii to examine the health impact of a specific pollutant – airborne particulates. Short-term exposure to particulate pollution is found to increase pulmonary-related hospitalisations and expenditures, particularly among very young children. 

Spencer Banzhaf, Andrew Chupp, 01 July 2010

In a federal system like the US or EU, should the central government or the individual governments regulate environmental damage? This column argues that – subject to certain conditions – individual states often undervalue pollution whereas a centralised system, by imposing an average price, often overshoots the optimum price – but mispricing too high causes fewer distortions than mispricing too low.

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