Environmental Quality, Labor, and Health Outcomes

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This dissertation comprises three essays that revolve around the theme of understanding how environmental quality impacts labor and health outcomes. The first essay provides causal estimates on how inland oil spills, one major type of environmental disaster, affect local labor markets. By exploiting severe inland oil spills and their news coverage status, I find that spills negatively affect county-level labor markets, but only when a spill is in the news. Severe spills not reported in the news yield no such effects. Exposure to spill information induces composition changes in county-level gross migration, weakening labor market conditions in low-tradability industries. Information on environmental disasters triggers sorting, which degrades labor markets in counties with spills that receive news coverage and has distributional effects. In the second essay, using the same set of severe inland oil spills, I estimate that oil spills raise mortality rates via an elevation of ambient air pollution, and are concentrated in the most susceptible group: elderly adults. This effect is detectable only when a spill is not covered in the news. When a spill is covered in the news, ambient air quality worsens for less than two weeks, and persistent decreases in county-level mortality rates arise, likely due to out-migration. The differential effects on air pollution and mortality imply that information on environmental disasters is beneficial to the environment and human health. The third essay evaluates whether increasing green jobs can benefit the environment and employment simultaneously. By employing a shift-share instrumental variable approach, I find that one additional green job generates 4.50 non-green jobs at the state level in the United States. Most of the increase comes from low-tradability industries. The positive multiplier effect is a result of a reduced number of unemployed workers, rather than an expansion of the labor force. Having more green jobs also boosts the production and consumption of renewable energy, and reduces CO2 emissions. Together, these three essays highlight the importance of understanding environmental economic issues to policy development.

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215 pages


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Sanders, Nicholas James

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Rudik, Ivan
Miller, Douglas L.

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Ph. D., Economics

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Doctor of Philosophy

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dissertation or thesis

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