Climate change and environmental pollution are the central challenges of our time. The COVID-19 pandemic has also moved population health a top policy priority. To present and discuss new research on these issues, the 8th IZA Workshop on “Environment, Health and Labor Markets”, organized by Olivier Deschenes and Nico Pestel, brought together researchers analyzing the interaction between environmental factors, health policies, labor markets and education.
Central questions evolved around the impacts of environmental pollution on educational and labor market outcomes, the effects of environmental policies on employment, as well as health benefits of public policies.
Lead exposure spills over to classmates
It is well established that children exposed to lead are more disruptive and have lower achievement. In her paper, Ludovica Gazze studies how lead-exposed children affect the long-run outcomes of their peers by using new data on preschool blood lead levels matched to education data for all students in North Carolina public schools. Having more lead-exposed peers is associated with lower high-school graduation and SAT-taking rates and increased suspensions and absences.
School building quality important for student performance
Governments devote a large share of public budgets to constructing, repairing and modernizing school facilities. Juan Palacios presented evidence on the implications for student performance of poor environmental conditions inside classrooms by continuously monitoring the environmental conditions (i.e. CO2, fine particles, temperature, humidity) in the classrooms of 3,000 children over two school years, and linking them to their scores in standardized tests. The findings show that exposure to poor indoor air quality during the school term preceding the test is associated with significant performance drops. Changes in teaching time could be a potential mechanism.
Low-emission zones improve child health
Hannah Klauber examines the impact of early-life exposure to air pollution on children’s health from their in-utero period to school enrollment by using public health insurance records covering one-third of the population of children in Germany. The results indicate that children born just before and just after a Low Emission Zone, banning high-emission vehicles, was implemented in the county of birth exhibit persistent differences in medication usage for at least five years.
Management quality crucial for climate change mitigation
Cap-and-trade programs for CO2 emissions are being considered by governments worldwide to address the climate change challenge. The success of such a market-based climate policy at minimizing overall abatement cost and fostering low-carbon investment and innovation depends on participants fully understanding the system. Ulrich Wagner provides evidence on how management quality moderates responses to carbon pricing, by analyzing firms that participated in two of China’s regional pilot emissions trading schemes (ETS). The findings show that the launch of the pilot ETS has reduced consumption of coal and electricity, but only for well-managed firms.
More papers are downloadable from the workshop homepage.