The Impact of Car Pollution on Infant and Child Health: Evidence from Emissions Cheating (WP-19-17)
Diane Alexander and Hannes Schwandt
Car exhaust is a major source of air pollution, but little is known about its impacts on population health. The authors exploit the dispersion of emissions-cheating diesel cars—which secretly polluted up to 150 times as much as gasoline cars—across the United States from 2008–15 as a natural experiment to measure the health impact of car pollution. Using the universe of vehicle registrations, they demonstrate that a 10 percent cheating-induced increase in car exhaust increases rates of low birth weight and acute asthma attacks among children by 1.9 and 8 percent, respectively. These health impacts occur at all pollution levels and across the entire socioeconomic spectrum.