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Urban afforestation and infant health: Evidence from MillionTreesNYC

Benjamin Jones () and Andrew L. Goodkind

Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 2019, vol. 95, issue C, 26-44

Abstract: This paper examines the impact of urban afforestation on infant health outcomes by exploiting a quasi-experimental setting where one million new trees were planted in New York City (NYC), but not in counties surrounding NYC over the same time period. Using a near-universal birth record of NYC and surrounding counties over 2004–2015 and employing both the synthetic control method and a difference-in-differences model, we find that an approximately 20% increase in urban forest cover decreased prematurity and low birth weight among mothers in NYC by 2.1 and 0.24 percentage points, respectively, relative to similar mothers outside of NYC. The low birth weight finding is equivalent to getting a mother smoking two cigarettes a day during pregnancy to quit. An internal validity test suggests that changes in the composition of NYC mothers cannot explain the observed effects. Additionally, we find evidence that declines in PM2.5 concentrations and increases in outdoor walks are potential causal mechanisms. Results suggest that urban afforestation may be able to complement existing policies aimed at improving infant health.

Keywords: Infant health; Urban afforestation; Synthetic control method; Difference-in-differences; New York City; Trees (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: H23 I18 J13 Q51 Q53 Q58 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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Journal of Environmental Economics and Management is currently edited by M.A. Cole, A. Lange, D.J. Phaneuf, D. Popp, M.J. Roberts, M.D. Smith, C. Timmins, Q. Weninger and A.J. Yates

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