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Coal Smoke, City Growth, and the Costs of the Industrial Revolution

W Hanlon ()

Economic Journal, 2020, vol. 130, issue 626, 462-488

Abstract: This article provides the first rigorous estimates of how industrial air pollution from coal burning affects long-run city growth. I introduce a new theoretically grounded strategy for estimating this relationship and apply it to data from highly polluted British cities from 1851 to 1911. I show that local industrial coal use substantially reduced long-run city employment and population growth. Moreover, a counterfactual analysis suggests that plausible improvements in coal-use efficiency would have led to a higher urbanisation rate in Britain by 1911. These findings contribute to our understanding of the effects of air pollution and the environmental costs of industrialisation.

Date: 2020
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Working Paper: Coal Smoke, City Growth, and the Cost of the Industrial Revolution (2018) Downloads
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