Understanding the Heterogeneity of Adverse COVID-19 Outcomes: The Role of Poor Quality of Air and Lockdown Decisions

34 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2020 Last revised: 6 May 2020

See all articles by Leonardo Becchetti

Leonardo Becchetti

University of Rome Tor Vergata - Faculty of Economics

Gianluigi Conzo

University of Rome Tor Vergata

Pierluigi Conzo

University of Turin - Department of Economics and Statistics; Collegio Carlo Alberto

Francesco Salustri

UCL Institute for Global Health

Date Written: April 10, 2020

Abstract

The uneven geographical distribution of the novel coronavirus epidemic (COVID-19) in Italy is a puzzle given the intense flow of movements among the different geographical areas before lockdown decisions. To shed light on it, we test the effect of five potential correlates of daily adverse COVID-19 outcomes at province level, that is lockdown decisions, demographic structure, economic activity, temperature and quality of air (proxied by particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide). We find that poor quality of air is negatively correlated with adverse outcomes of the epidemic, with lockdown being strongly significant and more effective in reducing deceases in more polluted areas. Results are robust to different methods including cross-section, pooled and fixed-effect panel regressions (also controlling for spatial correlation), as well as difference-in-differences estimates of lockdown decisions through predicted counterfactual trends. They are consistent with the consolidated body of literature in previous medical studies suggesting that poor quality of air creates chronic exposure to adverse outcomes from respiratory diseases. The heterogeneity of diffusion does not seem to depend on other controls such as temperature, commuting flows, quality of regional health systems, share of public transport users, population density and the presence of Chinese community. We also find that adverse COVID-19 outcomes are significantly and positively correlated with the share of small (artisan) firms. Our findings provide suggestions for investigating uneven geographical distribution patterns in other countries, and, if preliminary evidence is corroborated by causation links, have relevant implications with respect to environmental and lockdown policies.

Keywords: COVID-19, coronavirus pandemic, particulate matter, lockdown, economic activity

JEL Classification: I18, Q53, J18, H12

Suggested Citation

Becchetti, Leonardo and Conzo, Gianluigi and Conzo, Pierluigi and Salustri, Francesco, Understanding the Heterogeneity of Adverse COVID-19 Outcomes: The Role of Poor Quality of Air and Lockdown Decisions (April 10, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3572548 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3572548

Leonardo Becchetti

University of Rome Tor Vergata - Faculty of Economics ( email )

Via Columbia, 2
I-00133 Rome
Italy

Gianluigi Conzo

University of Rome Tor Vergata ( email )

Via di Tor Vergata
Rome, Lazio 00133
Italy

Pierluigi Conzo (Contact Author)

University of Turin - Department of Economics and Statistics ( email )

Campus Luigi Einaudi
Lungo Dora Siena 100 A
Torino, Torino 10153
Italy
011/6703892 (Phone)
011/6703895 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.pieroconzo.altervista.org/wordpress/

Collegio Carlo Alberto ( email )

Piazza Arbarello, 8
Torino, 10122
Italy

HOME PAGE: http://www.carloalberto.org/people/faculty/affiliates/pierluigi-conzo/

Francesco Salustri

UCL Institute for Global Health ( email )

United Kingdom

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