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The Effect of Pollution on Worker Productivity: Evidence from Call-Center Workers in China

35 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2016  

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

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 2016

Abstract

We investigate the effect of pollution on worker productivity in the service sector by focusing on two call centers in China. Using precise measures of each worker’s daily output linked to daily measures of pollution and meteorology, we find that higher levels of air pollution decrease worker productivity by reducing the number of calls that workers complete each day. These results manifest themselves at commonly found levels of pollution in major cities throughout the developing and developed world, suggesting that these types of effects are likely to apply broadly. When decomposing these effects, we find that the decreases in productivity are explained by increases in time spent on breaks rather than the duration of phone calls. To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate that the negative impacts of pollution on productivity extend beyond physically demanding tasks to indoor, white-collar work.

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Suggested Citation

Chang, Tom and Graff Zivin, Joshua and Gross, Tal and Neidell, Matthew, The Effect of Pollution on Worker Productivity: Evidence from Call-Center Workers in China (June 2016). NBER Working Paper No. w22328. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2794774

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)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Tal Gross

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

600 West 168th Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10032
United States

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

Matthew Neidell

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
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

2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

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