Green dealing

Kevin Lewis

April 10, 2019

The Antiquities Act, national monuments, and the regional economy
Paul Jakus & Sherzod Akhundjanov
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, May 2019, Pages 102-117


Large, landscape-scale national monuments have long been controversial. It has been claimed that large monuments harm local economies by restricting growth of the grazing, timber, mining, and energy industries. Others have asserted that large monuments aid economic growth by reducing reliance on volatile commodity markets and fostering tourism growth. In this study, we use a synthetic control approach to measure the average causal effect of nine national monument designations on county-level per capita income. We find no evidence that monument designation affected per capita income in any of 20 counties hosting nine large (>50,000 acres) national monuments established under the Antiquities Act (six monuments) or by legislative action (three monuments). The broad economic claims of both advocates and critics of large national monuments have little empirical support. The absence of a designation effect for large national monuments is likely due to the attributes of federal land and the legal constraints under which it is managed.

School Bus Emissions, Student Health and Academic Performance
Wes Austin, Garth Heutel & Daniel Kreisman
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming


Diesel emissions from school buses expose children to high levels of air pollution; retrofitting bus engines can substantially reduce this exposure. Using variation from 2,656 retrofits across Georgia, we estimate effects of emissions reductions on district-level health and academic achievement. We demonstrate positive effects on respiratory health, measured by a statewide test of aerobic capacity. Placebo tests on body mass index show no impact. We also find that retrofitting districts experience significant test score gains in English and smaller gains in math. Our results suggest that engine retrofits can have meaningful and cost-effective impacts on health and cognitive functioning.

Association of Air Pollution Exposure With Psychotic Experiences During Adolescence
Joanne Newbury et al.
JAMA Psychiatry, forthcoming

Design, Setting, and Participants: The Environmental-Risk Longitudinal Twin Study is a population-based cohort study of 2232 children born during the period from January 1, 1994, through December 4, 1995, in England and Wales and followed up from birth through 18 years of age. The cohort represents the geographic and socioeconomic composition of UK households. Of the original cohort, 2066 (92.6%) participated in assessments at 18 years of age, of whom 2063 (99.9%) provided data on psychotic experiences. Generation of the pollution data was completed on October 4, 2017, and data were analyzed from May 4 to November 21, 2018.

Exposures: High-resolution annualized estimates of exposure to 4 air pollutants — nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter with aerodynamic diameters of less than 2.5 (PM2.5) and less than 10 μm (PM10) — were modeled for 2012 and linked to the home addresses of the sample plus 2 commonly visited locations when the participants were 18 years old.

Results: Among the 2063 participants who provided data on psychotic experiences, sex was evenly distributed (52.5% female). Six hundred twenty-three participants (30.2%) had at least 1 psychotic experience from 12 to 18 years of age. Psychotic experiences were significantly more common among adolescents with the highest (top quartile) level of annual exposure to NO2 (odds ratio [OR], 1.71; 95% CI, 1.28-2.28), NOx (OR, 1.72; 95% CI, 1.30-2.29), and PM2.5 (OR, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.11-1.90). Together NO2 and NOx statistically explained 60% of the association between urbanicity and adolescent psychotic experiences. No evidence of confounding by family socioeconomic status, family psychiatric history, maternal psychosis, childhood psychotic symptoms, adolescent smoking and substance dependence, or neighborhood socioeconomic status, crime, and social conditions occurred.

Urban afforestation and infant health: Evidence from MillionTreesNYC
Benjamin Jones & Andrew Goodkind
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, May 2019, Pages 26-44


This paper examines the impact of urban afforestation on infant health outcomes by exploiting a quasi-experimental setting where one million new trees were planted in New York City (NYC), but not in counties surrounding NYC over the same time period. Using a near-universal birth record of NYC and surrounding counties over 2004–2015 and employing both the synthetic control method and a difference-in-differences model, we find that an approximately 20% increase in urban forest cover decreased prematurity and low birth weight among mothers in NYC by 2.1 and 0.24 percentage points, respectively, relative to similar mothers outside of NYC. The low birth weight finding is equivalent to getting a mother smoking two cigarettes a day during pregnancy to quit. An internal validity test suggests that changes in the composition of NYC mothers cannot explain the observed effects. Additionally, we find evidence that declines in PM2.5 concentrations and increases in outdoor walks are potential causal mechanisms. Results suggest that urban afforestation may be able to complement existing policies aimed at improving infant health.

Residential green space in childhood is associated with lower risk of psychiatric disorders from adolescence into adulthood
Kristine Engemann et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 12 March 2019, Pages 5188-5193


Urban residence is associated with a higher risk of some psychiatric disorders, but the underlying drivers remain unknown. There is increasing evidence that the level of exposure to natural environments impacts mental health, but few large-scale epidemiological studies have assessed the general existence and importance of such associations. Here, we investigate the prospective association between green space and mental health in the Danish population. Green space presence was assessed at the individual level using high-resolution satellite data to calculate the normalized difference vegetation index within a 210 × 210 m square around each person’s place of residence (∼1 million people) from birth to the age of 10. We show that high levels of green space presence during childhood are associated with lower risk of a wide spectrum of psychiatric disorders later in life. Risk for subsequent mental illness for those who lived with the lowest level of green space during childhood was up to 55% higher across various disorders compared with those who lived with the highest level of green space. The association remained even after adjusting for urbanization, socioeconomic factors, parental history of mental illness, and parental age. Stronger association of cumulative green space presence during childhood compared with single-year green space presence suggests that presence throughout childhood is important. Our results show that green space during childhood is associated with better mental health, supporting efforts to better integrate natural environments into urban planning and childhood life.

The Legacy Lead Deposition in Soils and Its Impact on Cognitive Function in Preschool-Aged Children in the United States
Karen Clay, Margarita Portnykh & Edson Severnini
Economics & Human Biology, May 2019, Pages 181-192


Surface soil contamination has been long recognized as an important pathway of human lead exposure, and is now a worldwide health concern. This study estimates the causal effects of exposure to lead in topsoil on cognitive ability among 5-year-old children. We draw on individual level data from the 2000 U.S. Census, and USGS data on lead in topsoil covering a broad set of counties across the United States. Using an instrumental variable approach relying on the 1944 Interstate Highway System Plan, we find that higher lead in topsoil increases considerably the probability of 5-year-old boys experiencing cognitive difficulties such as learning, remembering, concentrating, or making decisions. Living in counties with topsoil lead concentration above the national median roughly doubles the probability of 5-year-old boys having cognitive difficulties. Nevertheless, it does not seem to affect 5-year-old girls, consistent with previous studies. Importantly, the adverse effects of lead exposure on boys are found even in counties with levels of topsoil lead concentration considered low by the guidelines from the U.S. EPA and state agencies. These findings are concerning because they suggest that legacy lead may continue to impair cognition today, both in the United States and in other countries that have considerable lead deposition in topsoil.

The General Equilibrium Effects of HOV Lanes on Congestion, Sprawl, Energy Use, and Carbon Emissions
Weihua Zhao
Journal of Regional Science, forthcoming


High‐occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes have been promoted to encourage carpools, reduce traffic congestion, and improve air quality. At the partial equilibrium level, commuting with three workers per automobile clearly reduces highway congestion, lowers carbon emissions, and saves energy compared to three single drivers. This paper develops a numerical urban simulation model to generate the general equilibrium effects of HOV lanes on urban spatial structure, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions. The major findings are that while HOV lanes reduce traffic congestion and improve welfare, the fall in transportation cost leads to urban sprawl, which results in higher dwelling energy use and a larger carbon footprint. Overall, the HOV lane policy has little effect on total energy consumption and carbon emissions. This is another classic case of general equilibrium effects reversing the partial equilibrium effects of an urban policy. In contrast, a gasoline tax policy leads to less urban sprawl but is less effective at lowering energy consumption and carbon emissions. Imposing congestion tolls is a more effective tool at reducing traffic congestion, saving energy, and lowering carbon emissions.

Generational Trends in Vehicle Ownership and Use: Are Millennials Any Different?
Christopher Knittel & Elizabeth Murphy
NBER Working Paper, March 2019


Anecdotes that Millennials fundamentally differ from prior generations are numerous in the popular press. One claim is that Millennials, happy to rely on public transit or ride-hailing, are less likely to own vehicles and travel less in personal vehicles than previous generations. However, in this discussion it is unclear whether these perceived differences are driven by changes in preferences or the impact of forces beyond the control of Millennials, such as the Great Recession. We empirically test whether Millennials' vehicle ownership and use preferences differ from those of previous generations using data from the US National Household Travel Survey, Census, and American Community Survey. We estimate both regression and nearest-neighbor matching models to control for the confounding effect of demographic and macroeconomic variables. We find little difference in preferences for vehicle ownership between Millennials and prior generations once we control for confounding variables. In contrast to the anecdotes, we find higher usage in terms of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) compared to Baby Boomers. Next we test whether Millennials are altering endogenous life choices that may, themselves, affect vehicles ownership and use. We find that Millennials are more likely to live in urban settings and less likely to marry by age 35, but tend to have larger families, controlling for age. On net, these other choices have a small effect on vehicle ownership, reducing the number of vehicles per household by less than one percent.

Do Green Behaviors Earn Social Status?
Emily Huddart Kennedy & Christine Horne
Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, April 2019


Do green behaviors earn social status among liberals and conservatives? Although evidence shows that high-status consumers incorporate ecological concerns into their consumption choices, politically polarized views on environmentalism in the United States complicate the relationship between green behaviors and status. A vignette experiment shows that across political ideology, people grant status to green consumption. Results from semistructured interviews suggest that green consumers are seen as wealthy, knowledgeable, and ethical, although these status beliefs vary with political ideology. The findings reveal unlikely common ground between liberal and conservative judgments of green behaviors and indicate that green consumption is an emerging domain for evaluating social status.

Inequity in consumption of goods and services adds to racial–ethnic disparities in air pollution exposure
Christopher Tessum et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 26 March 2019, Pages 6001-6006


Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution exposure is the largest environmental health risk factor in the United States. Here, we link PM2.5 exposure to the human activities responsible for PM2.5 pollution. We use these results to explore “pollution inequity”: the difference between the environmental health damage caused by a racial–ethnic group and the damage that group experiences. We show that, in the United States, PM2.5 exposure is disproportionately caused by consumption of goods and services mainly by the non-Hispanic white majority, but disproportionately inhaled by black and Hispanic minorities. On average, non-Hispanic whites experience a “pollution advantage”: They experience ∼17% less air pollution exposure than is caused by their consumption. Blacks and Hispanics on average bear a “pollution burden” of 56% and 63% excess exposure, respectively, relative to the exposure caused by their consumption. The total disparity is caused as much by how much people consume as by how much pollution they breathe. Differences in the types of goods and services consumed by each group are less important. PM2.5 exposures declined ∼50% during 2002–2015 for all three racial–ethnic groups, but pollution inequity has remained high.

Costs of Energy Efficiency Mandates Can Reverse the Sign of Rebound
Don Fullerton & Chi Ta
NBER Working Paper, March 2019


Improvements in energy efficiency reduce the cost of consuming services from household cars and appliances and can result in a positive rebound effect that offsets part of the direct energy savings. We use a general equilibrium model to derive analytical expressions that allow us to compare rebound effects from a costless technology shock to those from a costly energy efficiency mandate. We decompose each total effect on the use of energy into components that include a direct efficiency effect, direct rebound effect, and indirect rebound effect. We investigate which factors determine the sign and magnitude of each. We show that rebound from a costless technology shock is generally positive, as in prior literature, but we also show how a pre-existing energy efficiency standard can negate the direct energy savings from the costless technology shock – leaving only the positive rebound effect on energy use. Then we analyze increased stringency of energy efficiency standards, and we show exactly when the increased costs reverse the sign of rebound. Using plausible parameter values in this model, we find that indirect effects can easily outweigh the direct effects captured in partial equilibrium models, and that the total rebound from a costly efficiency mandate is negative.

Shale gas transmission and housing prices
Andrew Boslett
Resource and Energy Economics, forthcoming


In this study, we exploit residential property sales data in New York to value the external environmental costs of the proposed Constitution Pipeline, a high-capacity transmission pipeline designed to transport hydraulically-fractured natural gas in Pennsylvania to large northeastern markets. Results from difference-in-differences models suggest post-announcement price declines of 9% (˜$12,000) for those properties located within three kilometers of the pipeline. These results are strongly robust to different specifications and subsets of the data, as well as falsification testing. Additionally, we find some evidence of attenuation in our treatment effect over time, which is indicative of either declining salience or expectations of the pipeline over time. Our results suggest that homebuyer expectations of the environmental externalities of natural gas pipeline construction and operations are large and negative.

Institutional Investors and Corporate Environmental, Social, and Governance Policies: Evidence from Toxics Release Data
Incheol Kim et al.
Management Science, forthcoming


This paper studies the role of institutional investors in influencing corporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies by analyzing the relation between institutional ownership and toxic release from facilities to which institutions are geographically proximate. We develop a local preference hypothesis based on the delegated philanthropy and transaction-costs theories. Consistent with the hypothesis, local institutional ownership is negatively related to facility toxic release. The negative relation is stronger for local socially responsible investing (SRI) funds, local public pension funds, and local dedicated institutions. We also find that the relation is more negative in communities that prefer more stringent environmental policies and in communities of greater collective cohesiveness. Local institutional ownership, particularly local ownerships by SRI funds and public pension funds, is positively related to the probability that an ESG proposal is either introduced or withdrawn. The paper sheds light on the drivers behind institutions’ ESG engagement and their effectiveness in influencing ESG.

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