Category Archives: Working paper

Maybe Next Month? Temperature Shocks, Climate Change, and Dynamic Adjustments in Birth Rates

TITLE
Maybe Next Month? Temperature Shocks, Climate Change, and Dynamic Adjustments in Birth Rates

AUTHORS
Barreca, Alan, Olivier Deschenes, & Melanie Guldi

STATUS
NBER working paper | 2015 | Submitted

LINKS

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ABSTRACT
Dynamic adjustments could be a useful strategy for mitigating the costs of acute environmental shocks when timing is not a strictly binding constraint. To investigate whether such adjustments could apply to fertility, we estimate the effects of temperature shocks on birth rates in the United States between 1931 and 2010. Our innovative approach allows for presumably random variation in the distribution of daily temperatures to affect birth rates up to 24 months into the future. We find that additional days above 80 °F cause a large decline in birth rates approximately 8 to 10 months later. The initial decline is followed by a partial rebound in births over the next few months implying that populations can mitigate the fertility cost of temperature shocks by shifting conception month. This dynamic adjustment helps explain the observed decline in birth rates during the spring and subsequent increase during the summer. The lack of a full rebound suggests that increased temperatures due to climate change may reduce population growth rates in the coming century. As an added cost, climate change will shift even more births to the summer months when third trimester exposure to dangerously high temperatures increases. Based on our analysis of historical changes in the temperature-fertility relationship, we conclude air conditioning could be used to substantially offset the fertility costs of climate change.

Adjusting to Permanent Environmental Changes: Evidence from Agriculture and the US Acid Rain Program

TITLE
Adjusting to Permanent Environmental Changes: Evidence from Agriculture and the US Acid Rain Program

AUTHORS
Sanders, Nicholas, & Alan Barreca

STATUS
Unpublished working paper | 2015

LINK
Currently revising

ABSTRACT
The Acid Rain Program (ARP) of 1995 regulated the sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions of pollution-intensive power plants in the United States (US). We are the first to examine how this large pollution-abatement program affected agricultural output in the US, with a focus on corn and soy, the two largest crops by both acreage and revenues. The expected impact of the ARP is ambiguous. Reductions in airborne SO2 imply less harmful acid deposition, but also less beneficial soil sulfur. Our core identification strategy takes advantage of differing treatment intensity across counties based on distance from regulated power plants, with additional tests by wind direction and soil types.

Coal, Smoke, and Death: Bituminous Coal and American Home Heating

TITLE
Coal, Smoke, and Death: Bituminous Coal and American Home Heating

AUTHORS
Barreca, Alan, Karen Clay, & Joel Tarr

STATUS
NBER Working Paper | 2014 | Currently revising

LINK

ABSTRACT
Air pollution was severe in many urban areas of the United States in the first half of the twentieth century, in part due to the burning of bituminous coal for heat. We estimate the effects of this bituminous coal consumption on mortality rates in the U.S. during the mid 20th century. Coal consumption varied considerably during the 20th century due to coal-labor strikes, wartime oil and gas restrictions, and the expansion of gas pipelines, among other reasons. To mitigate the influence of confounding factors, we use a triple-differences identification strategy that relies on variation in coal consumption at the state-year-season level. It exploits the fact that coal consumption for heating was highest in the winter and uses within-state changes in mortality in non-winter months as an additional control group. Our estimates suggest that reductions in the use of bituminous coal for heating between 1945 and 1960 decreased winter all-age mortality by 1.25 percent and winter infant mortality by 3.27 percent, saving 1,923 all age lives per winter month and 310 infant lives per winter month. Our estimates are likely to be a lower bound, since they primarily capture short-run relationships between coal and mortality.