Particulate Pollution and the Productivity of Pear Packers

41 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2014 Last revised: 4 Oct 2014

See all articles by Tom Chang

Tom Chang

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business - Finance and Business Economics Department

Joshua Graff Zivin

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IRPS); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Tal Gross

Columbia University - Department of Health Policy and Management

Matthew Neidell

Columbia University; University of Chicago - Department of Economics and CISES; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

Date Written: February 2014

Abstract

We study the effect of outdoor air pollution on the productivity of indoor workers at a pear-packing factory. We focus on fine particulate matter (PM2.5), a harmful pollutant that easily penetrates indoor settings. We find that an increase in PM2.5 outdoors leads to a statistically and economically significant decrease in packing speeds inside the factory, with effects arising at levels well below current air quality standards. In contrast, we find little effect of PM2.5 on hours worked or the decision to work, and little effect of pollutants that do not travel indoors, such as ozone. This effect of outdoor pollution on the productivity of indoor workers suggests a thus far overlooked consequence of pollution. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that nationwide reductions in PM2.5 from 1999 to 2008 generated $19.5 billion in labor cost savings, which is roughly one-third of the total welfare benefits associated with this change.

Suggested Citation

Chang, Tom and Graff Zivin, Joshua and Gross, Tal and Neidell, Matthew, Particulate Pollution and the Productivity of Pear Packers (February 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w19944, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2403668

Tom Chang (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business - Finance and Business Economics Department ( email )

Marshall School of Business
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Joshua Graff Zivin

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IRPS) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0519
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Tal Gross

Columbia University - Department of Health Policy and Management ( email )

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New York, NY 10032
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.talgross.com

Matthew Neidell

Columbia University ( email )

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New York, NY 10027
United States

University of Chicago - Department of Economics and CISES ( email )

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

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Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

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