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

36 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2016

See all articles by Tom Chang

Tom Chang

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

Joshua Graff Zivin

Columbia University - Department of Health Policy and Management; 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

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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.

Keywords: pollution, productivity

JEL Classification: J22, J24, Q51, Q53

Suggested Citation

Chang, Tom and Zivin, Joshua Graff and Gross, Tal and Neidell, Matthew, The Effect of Pollution on Worker Productivity: Evidence from Call-Center Workers in China. IZA Discussion Paper No. 10027. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2803859

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

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

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