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Exposure to firewood: Consequences for health and labor force participation in Mexico

Omar Stabridis and Edwin van Gameren

World Development, 2018, vol. 107, issue C, 382-395

Abstract: Indoor air pollution (IAP) originating from firewood used as cooking fuel relates to respiratory problems and can generate economic losses. IAP is associated with 1.6 million deaths worldwide annually. We assess the mechanisms behind the cooking fuel choice – in particular, firewood or LPG –, if the exposure to IAP due to firewood usage causes respiratory problems, and if this has implications for the probability to participate in the labor market. A small economic-theoretical model is proposed in which an individual maximizes utility generated by the fuel choice, consumption, health status, and the time dedicated to health and leisure, under financial and time constraints. For an empirical test, we use the 2002 Mexican Family Life Survey (MxFLS), estimating a trivariate recursive probit model. Our study finds that the usage of firewood as the household's fuel for cooking results in an increased prevalence of respiratory problems among women (but not among men), probably related to the traditional duties in the household. In the labor participation decision, we find a negative impact of respiratory problems on participation; hence, especially for women we find a strong causal channel from exposure to IAP to health problems to a reduction of labor force participation. A possible policy to break the circle of negative effects could involve the provision of improved firewood or LPG stoves that provoke less pollution and therefore reduces the health risks.

Keywords: Indoor air pollution; Trivariate recursive probit; Health production function; Labor force participation; Firewood usage, Mexico (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C35 D13 I12 J22 Q53 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2018.03.009

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