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Abstract: This paper investigates the role of long-term exposure to fine particulate pollution (PM 2.5) on COVID-19 disparities. To isolate the effect of PM 2.5, we leverage pollution spillovers from neighbouring counties not meeting Clean Air Act-set maximums on acceptable pollution levels. We find a 1-unit increase in cumulative exposure to PM 2.5 increased COVID-19 deaths by 43.5%. PM 2.5 exposure carries an additional race-specific mortality effect of 6.8%-16% for counties with a high proportion of minority or Black residents. However, counties just above CAA pollution thresholds, which had significant pollution reductions over time, saw a full standard deviation reduction in COVID-19 deaths per 100,000. Counties with higher representation of minority or Black residents saw reductions in deaths by 1.50 and 1.15 standard deviations, respectively. Nevertheless, these protective effects insufficiently compensate for the still higher levels of pollution exposure in counties with more Black or minority residents and the more consequential impact of pollution for these communities.
Keywords: pollution, health, racial disparities
JEL Classification: I10, I14, Q52, Q53