Air Pollution and Student Performance in the U.S

34 Pages Posted: 23 May 2022 Last revised: 29 May 2022

See all articles by Michael Gilraine

Michael Gilraine

New York University (NYU) - Department of Economics

Angela Zheng

McMaster University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 2022


We combine satellite-based pollution data and test scores from over 10,000 U.S. school districts to estimate the relationship between air pollution and test scores. To deal with potential endogeneity we instrument for air quality using (i) year-to-year coal production variation and (ii) a shift-share instrument that interacts fuel shares used for nearby power production with national growth rates. We find that each one-unit increase in particulate pollution reduces test scores by 0.02 standard deviations. Our findings indicate that declines in particulate pollution exposure raised test scores and reduced the black-white test score gap by 0.06 and 0.01 standard deviations, respectively.

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Suggested Citation

Gilraine, Michael and Zheng, Angela, Air Pollution and Student Performance in the U.S (May 2022). NBER Working Paper No. w30061, Available at SSRN: or

Michael Gilraine (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Department of Economics ( email )

19 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10012
United States

Angela Zheng

McMaster University ( email )

1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4M4

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