East Side Story: Historical Pollution and Persistent Neighborhood Sorting

67 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2016  

Stephan Heblich

University of Bristol - Department of Economics

Alex Trew

University of St. Andrews - School of Economics and Finance

Zylberberg Yanos

Visa

Date Written: November 08, 2016

Abstract

Why are the East sides of former industrial cities like London or New York poorer and more deprived? We argue that this observation is the most visible consequence of the historically unequal distribution of air pollutants across neighborhoods. In this paper, we geo-locate nearly 5,000 industrial chimneys in 70 English cities in 1880 and use an atmospheric dispersion model to recreate the spatial distribution of pollution. First, individual-level census data show that pollution induced neighborhood sorting during the course of the nineteenth century. Historical pollution patterns explain up to 15% of within city deprivation in 1881. Second, these equilibria persist to this day even though the pollution that initially caused them has waned. A quantitative model shows the role of non-linearities and tipping-like dynamics in such persistence.

Keywords: neighborhood sorting, historical pollution, deprivation, persistence, environmental disamenity

JEL Classification: R230, Q530, N900

Suggested Citation

Heblich, Stephan and Trew, Alex and Yanos, Zylberberg, East Side Story: Historical Pollution and Persistent Neighborhood Sorting (November 08, 2016). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 6166. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2884598

Stephan Heblich (Contact Author)

University of Bristol - Department of Economics ( email )

8 Woodland Road
Bristol BS8 ITN
United Kingdom

Alex Trew

University of St. Andrews - School of Economics and Finance ( email )

The Scores, Castlecliff
St. Andrews, Fife KY16 8RD
United Kingdom

Zylberberg Yanos

Visa ( email )

The Priory Road Complex
Clifton
Bristol, BS8 1TU
United Kingdom

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