When Particulate Matter Strikes Cities: Social Disparities and Health Costs of Air Pollution
65 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2019 Last revised: 8 Oct 2019
Date Written: August 1, 2019
Socio-economic characteristics can determine large differentials in exposure and vulnerability to air pollution, generating environmental inequality. In this paper we investigate unequal effects of daily particulate matter (PM) concentrations on Italian hospitalizations by exploiting daily episodes of public transportation strikes as an instrumental variable for pollution exposure. We show that hospitalizations resulting from higher pollution are not only more likely to occur, but are also more complex to deal with. Moreover, our predictions show that conditional on PM exposure levels, hospitalization costs follow a strong socio-economic gradient, with the health burden being larger for the young, less educated individuals and migrants from low income countries. These inequality mechanisms imply that the effects of air pollution should be addressed not only by environmental and health actors, but should be coordinated with other sectors, such as education and transport, shaping a common policy approach.
Keywords: Health effects of air pollution, Environmental inequality, Public transportation strikes, Hospitalization costs
JEL Classification: I14, Q53, R41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation