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Avoidance behavior against air pollution: evidence from online search indices for anti-PM2.5 masks and air filters in Chinese cities

Tong Liu (), Guojun He and Alexis Lau
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Tong Liu: Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Alexis Lau: Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Environmental Economics and Policy Studies, 2018, vol. 20, issue 2, No 5, 325-363

Abstract: Abstract This study investigates people’s behavioral responses to air pollution information in China. We find that elevated air pollution levels are positively associated with higher online searches for anti-PM2.5 masks and air filters. A 10 µg/m3 increase in PM2.5 is associated with a 3.6–8.4% increase of mobile queries for anti-PM2.5 masks, and 1.1–4.7% for air filters. Using a regression discontinuity design, we find that a haze alert issued when PM2.5 concentration exceeds 250 µg/m3 would double online queries for anti-PM2.5 masks and air filters. Online searches are also positively correlated with online sales. One day of severe pollution would induce a cost of 0.2 million USD on online expenditure on anti-PM2.5 masks. Some suggestive evidence shows that people in richer and polluted cities tend to search more for anti-PM2.5 masks and air filters than those in poorer and cleaner cities.

Keywords: Avoidance behavior; Air pollution; Haze alert; Online search; PM2.5 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q53 I12 I18 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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DOI: 10.1007/s10018-017-0196-3

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