Early Exposure to Hazardous Waste and Academic Achievement: Evidence from a Case of Environmental Negligence
Tomás Rau; Sergio Urzua y Loreto Reyes
Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists Pages 527-563
Abstract: This paper estimates the effect of early exposure to toxic waste on academic achievement. We analyze longitudinal information from individuals attending primary and secondary schools in Arica (northern Chile). Between 1984 and 1989, the city received more than 20,000 tons of toxic chemicals containing high concentrations of lead, arsenic, and mercury. We implement difference-in-differences and reduced-form models to document robust relationships between residential and school proximity to the polluted area and academic performance. We find that attending a school 1 kilometer farther away from the polluted area significantly increases math and language scores by 0.09 and 0.07 standard deviations, respectively. Finally, we use georeferenced blood tests and administrative records on labor income to estimate that children living in the area could lose up to US$60,000 over the course of their lifetime as a result of their early life exposure to toxic waste.
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