Light Pollution, Sleep Deprivation, and Infant Health at Birth

53 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2018

See all articles by Laura M. Argys

Laura M. Argys

University of Colorado at Denver - Department of Economics

Susan L. Averett

Lafayette College - Department of Economics & Business

Muzhe Yang

Lehigh University - Department of Economics

Abstract

This is the first study that uses a direct measure of skyglow, an important aspect of light pollution, to examine its impact on infant health at birth. We find evidence of reduced birth weight, shortened gestational length and even preterm births. Specifically, increased nighttime brightness, characterized by being able to see only one-third to one-fourth of the stars that are visible in the absence of artificial light, is associated with an increase in the likelihood of a preterm birth by as much as 12.8 percent, or an increase of approximately 45,000 preterm births nationwide annually. Our findings add to the literature on the impact of in utero and early-life exposure to pollution, which thus far has focused primarily on air pollution.The unique feature of our identification strategy to determine a causal effect is the application of Walker's Law in physics, which provides a scientific basis to estimate skyglow. We use estimated skyglow as an instrumental variable to address the endogeneity problem associated with the skyglow variable. In addition, our study shows that increased skyglow is associated with less sleep, indicating a likely biological mechanism that links sleep deprivation to light-pollution induced circadian disruption. This result, combined with the literature on the adverse effects of sleep disorders, completes the causal chain underlying our finding on the adverse health impact of skyglow. Our study has important policy implications for current installation of LED streetlights in many U.S. municipalities, highlighting the necessity of minimizing skyglow contributed by streetlights.

Keywords: light pollution, skyglow, sleep deprivation, birth outcomes

JEL Classification: I10, I12, I18, Q59, R11

Suggested Citation

Argys, Laura M. and Averett, Susan and Yang, Muzhe, Light Pollution, Sleep Deprivation, and Infant Health at Birth. IZA Discussion Paper No. 11703. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3234226

Laura M. Argys (Contact Author)

University of Colorado at Denver - Department of Economics ( email )

Campus Box 181
P.O. Box 173364
Denver, CO 80217-3364
United States
303-556-3547 (Fax)

Susan Averett

Lafayette College - Department of Economics & Business ( email )

Easton, PA 18042
United States
610-250-5307 (Phone)
610-250-8961 (Fax)

Muzhe Yang

Lehigh University - Department of Economics ( email )

621 Taylor Street
Bethlehem, PA 18015
United States

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