Panle Jia Barwick (10/30/19)

Panle Jia Barwick

Cornell University

“From Fog to Smog: the Value of Pollution Information”

Abstract: During 2013-2014, China launched a nation wide real-time air quality monitoring and disclosure program, a watershed moment in the history of its environmental regulations. We present the first empirical analysis of this natural experiment by exploiting its staggered introduction across cities. The program has transformed the landscape of China’s environmental protection, substantially expanded public access to pollution information, and dramatically increased households’ awareness about pollution issues. These transformations in turn triggered a cascade of behavioral changes in household activities such as online searches, day-to-day shopping, and housing demand when pollution was elevated. As a result, air pollution’s mortality cost was reduced by nearly 7% post the program, amounting to an annual benefit of RMB 120 billion. The resulting benefit is an order of magnitude larger than the cost of the program and the associated avoidance behavior. Our findings highlight considerable benefits from improving access to pollution information in developing countries, many of which are experiencing the world’s worst air pollution but do not systematically collect or disseminate pollution information. Full Paper