Air Quality and Error Quantity: Pollution and Performance in a High-Skilled, Quality-Focused Occupation
40 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2015 Last revised: 12 Dec 2017
Date Written: December 11, 2017
We provide the first evidence that short-term exposure to air pollution affects the work performance of a group of highly-skilled, quality-focused employees. We repeatedly observe the decision-making of individual professional baseball umpires, quasi-randomly assigned to varying air quality across time and space. Unique characteristics of this setting combined with high-frequency data disentangle effects of multiple pollutants and identify previously under-explored acute effects. We find a 1 ppm increase in 3-hour CO causes an 11.5% increase in the propensity of umpires to make incorrect calls and a 10 µg/m3 increase in 12-hour PM2.5 causes a 2.6% increase. We control carefully for a variety of potential confounders and results are supported by robustness and falsification checks. Our estimates imply a 3% reduction in productive output is associated with a change in CO concentrations equivalent to moving from the 25th to the 75th percentile of the CO-distribution in many of the largest US cities.
Keywords: Air quality, Labor productivity, Cognition
JEL Classification: J24, Q52, Q53
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation