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

45 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2014 Last revised: 15 Mar 2015

See all articles by Alan I. Barreca

Alan I. Barreca

UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Karen Clay

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Joel Tarr

World Bank

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 2014

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Barreca, Alan I. and Clay, Karen B. and Tarr, Joel A,., Coal, Smoke, and Death: Bituminous Coal and American Home Heating (February 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w19881. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2393594

Alan I. Barreca (Contact Author)

UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability ( email )

Los Angeles, CA
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Karen B. Clay

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Joel A,. Tarr

World Bank

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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