Kevin Lewis

May 29, 2019

Water Contaminant Levels Interact with Parenting Environment to Predict Development of Depressive Symptoms in Adolescents
Erika Manczak, Jonas Miller & Ian Gotlib
Developmental Science, forthcoming


Contaminants in drinking water, such as lead, nitrate, and arsenic, have been linked to negative physical health outcomes. We know less, however, about whether such pollutants also predict mental health problems and, if so, the conditions under which such effects are strongest. In this longitudinal study, we examined whether drinking water contaminants interact with negative family environments (parental psychological control) to predict changes in depressive symptoms in 110 adolescents -- a developmental period when symptoms often first emerge. We found that for adolescents in psychologically controlling families, levels of drinking water contaminants prospectively predicted depressive symptoms two years later; this effect was not present in adolescents in non‐controlling families. Importantly, these associations were not accounted for by family‐ or community‐level socioeconomic resources, demographic features, or by the adolescents’ stress exposure. These findings highlight the interplay of physical and psychological environments in influencing depressive symptoms in adolescents.

Do energy efficiency standards hurt consumers? Evidence from household appliance sales
Arlan Brucal & Michael Roberts
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, forthcoming


We build novel welfare-based price indices for major household appliances that leverage changes in same-model prices and how consumers substitute between exiting, continuing and new models. We then evaluate how minimum energy efficiency requirements and changing criteria for Energy Star labels affected these indices in the U.S. between 2001 and 2011, a period of time when some appliances experienced standard changes while others did not. We find that prices declined while quality and consumer welfare increased, especially when standards become more stringent. We also find that much of the price index decline can be attributed to standards-induced innovation, or cannibalism, not to inter-manufacturer competition. Our results also add to a growing body of evidence that the Consumer Price Index exaggerates inflation due to inadequate account of quality and substitution to new goods.

When good intentions go bad: The biased perception of the environmental impact of a behavior due to reliance on an actor's behavioral intention
Gea Hoogendoorn, Bernadette Sütterlin & Michael Siegrist
Journal of Environmental Psychology, August 2019, Pages 65-77


People engage in pro-environmental behaviors for various reasons. Depending on the intention underlying their behavior, they are perceived differently by others. Thus, the question arises whether the reason why a person performs a behavior not only influences how observers perceive that person, but also how observers evaluate the environmental impact of that person's behavior. We conducted two experiments, in which participants (i.e., observers) read a text describing a person (i.e., actor) engaging in a pro-environmental behavior for either self-serving or environmental reasons. We found that the environmental impact of an identical pro-environmental behavior was judged differently depending on the underlying behavioral intention of the actor. When the behavior was performed by the actor for pro-environmental reasons, the positive environmental impact was perceived to be lower than when the behavior was performed for self-serving reasons. These findings suggest that people are subject to an observer intention bias when judging the environmental impact of others' behavior. In two follow-up experiments, we identified moral comparison to be the mechanism underlying this observer intention bias. When reading about an environmentally motivated actor, participants experienced a stronger feeling of being judged as less moral by the actor, than when they read about an actor conducting the same behavior out of self-serving motivation. To cope with this feeling of being judged by others, people downplay the positive impact of the observed morally superior person's actions.

The Health Consequences of Weak Regulation: Evidence from Excess Emissions in Texas
Alex Hollingsworth, David Konisky & Nikolaos Zirogiannis
Indiana University Working Paper, May 2019


Excess emissions are air pollution releases that exceed permitted levels and occur during facility start-ups, shutdowns, or malfunctions. While they are violations of the federal Clean Air Act, states have historically granted violating facilities automatic exemptions; limiting enforcement and weakening existing regulation. Recent efforts to harmonize state and federal rules have ignited debate surrounding optimal excess emissions regulation. Using Texas data from 2002-2017, we show robust evidence on the costs of excess emissions. We find that excess emissions increase harmful nearby pollution and elderly mortality, and are responsible for over $250 million in annual damages in Texas alone.

Sustainability and Tourism: The Effect of the United States' First Offshore Wind Farm on the Vacation Rental Market
Andrew Carr-Harris & Corey Lang
Resource and Energy Economics, August 2019, Pages 51-67


One concern with offshore wind energy development is a negative impact to tourism. In this paper we assess this concern by examining how the Block Island Wind Farm, the first of its kind in the United States, has impacted the vacation rental market. Using data from AirBnb, we estimate a difference-in-differences model that compares Block Island to three nearby tourist destinations in Southern New England before and after construction. Our results suggest that construction of the Block Island Wind Farm caused a significant increase in nightly reservations, occupancy rates, and monthly revenues for AirBnb properties in Block Island during the peak-tourism months of July and August, but had no effect in other months. The findings indicate that offshore wind farms can act as an attractive feature of a location, rather than a deterrent.

When do environmental regulations backfire? Onsite industrial electricity generation, energy efficiency and policy instruments
Mark Curtis & Jonathan Lee
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, forthcoming


More than half of all energy produced by electric utilities is lost in the form of waste heat. However, when manufacturing facilities choose to produce their own electricity, this waste heat is captured by Combined Heating and Power (CHP) technologies and used in the production process. As a result, manufacturers' pollution footprint can be dramatically reduced by choosing to produce electricity onsite rather than purchasing it from a utility. This paper uses Census microdata to study manufacturers’ decision to produce electricity onsite and examines how plants adjust onsite generation when they are subject to environmental regulations. Environmental regulations will backfire if they cause manufacturers to produce less electricity onsite and shift to electricity from less efficient, offsite electric utilities. We find that manufacturing plants subject to NOx command-and-control regulations decrease onsite electricity generation, increase electricity purchases from off-site utilities and see declines in their energy efficiency. However, manufacturers subject to cap-and-trade see no decline in onsite generation and experience improvements in energy efficiency. These findings demonstrate the importance of instrument selection and identify a new pathway through which emissions leakage may occur.

Consumer Myopia in Vehicle Purchases: Evidence from a Natural Experiment
Kenneth Gillingham, Sébastien Houde & Arthur van Benthem
NBER Working Paper, May 2019


A central question in the analysis of fuel-economy policy is whether consumers are myopic with regards to future fuel costs. We provide the first evidence on consumer valuation of fuel economy from a natural experiment. We examine the short-run equilibrium effects of an exogenous restatement of fuel-economy ratings that affected 1.6 million vehicles. Using the implied changes in willingness-to-pay, we find that consumers act myopically: consumers are indifferent between $1 in discounted fuel costs and 15-38 cents in the vehicle purchase price when discounting at 4%. This myopia persists under a wide range of assumptions.

Effects of stricter environmental regulations on resource development
Ian Lange & Michael Redlinger
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, forthcoming


This analysis seeks to understand whether changes in oil regulation brought about by the shale revolution have restricted the pace of drilling and production. This hypothesis is tested using data on North Dakota and Montana both before and after North Dakota increased regulations that raise fixed costs. Results generally find that the new regulations had no statistical impact on the pace of drilling and production, however it is found that smaller operators reduced their production and exited. These results are instructive for policymakers who weigh the loss of economic welfare against improved environmental quality when deciding on new regulations.

Atmospheric transport and deposition of microplastics in a remote mountain catchment
Steve Allen et al.
Nature Geoscience, May 2019, Pages 339–344


Plastic litter is an ever-increasing global issue and one of this generation’s key environmental challenges. Microplastics have reached oceans via river transport on a global scale. With the exception of two megacities, Paris (France) and Dongguan (China), there is a lack of information on atmospheric microplastic deposition or transport. Here we present the observations of atmospheric microplastic deposition in a remote, pristine mountain catchment (French Pyrenees). We analysed samples, taken over five months, that represent atmospheric wet and dry deposition and identified fibres up to ~750 µm long and fragments ≤300 µm as microplastics. We document relative daily counts of 249 fragments, 73 films and 44 fibres per square metre that deposited on the catchment. An air mass trajectory analysis shows microplastic transport through the atmosphere over a distance of up to 95 km. We suggest that microplastics can reach and affect remote, sparsely inhabited areas through atmospheric transport.

This Is Only a Test? Long-Run and Intergenerational Impacts of Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout
Sandra Black et al.
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming


We examine the effect of radiation exposure in utero, resulting from nuclear weapon testing in the 1950s and early 1960s on long-run outcomes of Norwegian children. Exposure to low-dose radiation, specifically during months 3 and 4 in utero, leads to lower IQ scores for men and lower education attainment and earnings among men and women. Children of persons affected in utero also have lower cognitive scores, suggesting a persistent intergenerational effect of the shock to endowments. Given the lack of awareness about nuclear testing in Norway at this time, our estimates are likely unaffected by avoidance behavior or stress effects.

Plastic leachates impair growth and oxygen production in Prochlorococcus, the ocean’s most abundant photosynthetic bacteria
Sasha Tetu et al.
Communications Biology, May 2019


Plastic pollution is a global threat to marine ecosystems. Plastic litter can leach a variety of substances into marine environments; however, virtually nothing is known regarding how this affects photosynthetic bacteria at the base of the marine food web. To address this, we investigated the effect of plastic leachate exposure on marine Prochlorococcus, widely considered the most abundant photosynthetic organism on Earth and vital contributors to global primary production and carbon cycling. Two strains of Prochlorococcus representing distinct ecotypes were exposed to leachate from common plastic items: high-density polyethylene bags and polyvinyl chloride matting. We show leachate exposure strongly impairs Prochlorococcus in vitro growth and photosynthetic capacity and results in genome-wide transcriptional changes. The strains showed distinct differences in the extent and timing of their response to each leachate. Consequently, plastic leachate exposure could influence marine Prochlorococcus community composition and potentially the broader composition and productivity of ocean phytoplankton communities.


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