Pollution, Heat, and Learning
(Natural Resource, Energy, and Environmental Policy)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
The papers in this panel use quasi-experimental variation to assess the impact that environmental conditions such as environmental hazards in homes, air pollution, and heat, have on students' health, behavior, and achievement. Together, they demonstrate that both exposure to pollution in early childhood at home and exposure to pollution and heat at school affect students’ health, ultimately disrupting learning. Specifically, the second paper in the panel documents a direct link between exposure to diesel pollution, student’s respiratory health, and students’ test scores at the district level. All these papers document reductions in test scores as well increases in behavioral incidents due to environmental conditions. Moreover, the first paper in the panel shows that environmental impacts compound due to peer interactions at school: students exposed to pollutants at home have lower achievement and disrupt learning for non-exposed peers, too.
The research in this panel is important for two reasons. First, it shows that even within small neighborhoods, environmental exposure to pollutants and microclimates at home and at school can contribute to inequality. Beyond the scope of this panel, these findings have implications for exposure at work, too. Second, the fourth paper documents larger heat impacts on minority students and in schools without air conditioning. These findings suggest that schools with better access to resources might be able to mitigate the deleterious effects of environmental conditions on their students, a mechanism that can further exacerbate inequality. As global warming increases temperatures across the board, the disruptive effects of heat on learning and productivity become an increasingly crucial issue.
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