Do Richer People Pollute More or Less? New Evidence on Household Level Vehicle Emissions Kuznets Curves

30 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2004

See all articles by Matthew E. Kahn

Matthew E. Kahn

University of Southern California; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: July 2004

Abstract

Smog is sharply declining in growing cities. This suggests that emissions per mile of driving is declining faster than overall vehicle mileage is growing. This paper analyzes emissions for over 24,000 vehicles tested at random between 1997 and 1999 in California's Random Roadside Emissions Tests. We use these data to test hypotheses concerning whether the rich create more annual vehicle emissions than poorer people. Building on the recent "macro" Environmental Kuznets Curve literature, we present evidence that vehicle emissions first rise and then decline as a function of household income. We document that three effects underlie this relationship. First, richer people drive more miles than poorer people. Second, richer people own newer vehicles which pollute much less than older vehicles. Third, even controlling for vehicle model year, richer people pollute less. For richer people, the second and third "quality" effects dominate this first "quantity" effect. Hence, the rich pollute less.

Keywords: Pollution, vehicles, environmental kuznets curve, externality

JEL Classification: R01

Suggested Citation

Kahn, Matthew E., Do Richer People Pollute More or Less? New Evidence on Household Level Vehicle Emissions Kuznets Curves (July 2004). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=564627 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.564627

Matthew E. Kahn (Contact Author)

University of Southern California ( email )

2250 Alcazar Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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