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Expected Health Effects of Reduced Air Pollution from COVID-19 Social Distancing

Steve Cicala (), Stephen Holland (), Erin Mansur (), Nicholas Muller and Andrew Yates
Additional contact information
Stephen Holland: University of North Carolina at Greensboro - Department of Economics and NBER
Erin Mansur: Dartmouth - Tuck School of Business and NBER

No 2020-61, Working Papers from Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in stay-at-home policies and other social distancing behaviors in the United States in spring of 2020. This paper examines the impact that these actions had on emissions and expected health effects through reduced personal vehicle travel and electricity consumption. Using daily cell phone mobility data for each U.S. county, we find that vehicle travel dropped about 40% by mid-April across the nation. States that imposed stay-at-home policies before March 28 decreased travel slightly more than other states, but travel in all states decreased significantly. Using data on hourly electricity consumption by electricity region (e.g., balancing authority), we find that electricity consumption fell about six percent on average by mid-April with substantial heterogeneity. Given these decreases in travel and electricity use, we estimate the county-level expected improvements in air quality, and therefore expected declines in mortality. Overall, we estimate that, for a month of social distancing, the expected premature deaths due to air pollution from personal vehicle travel and electricity consumption declined by approximately 360 deaths, or about 25% of the baseline 1500 deaths. In addition, we estimate that CO2 emissions from these sources fell by 46 million metric tons (a reduction of approximately 19%) over the same time frame.

Keywords: Air pollution; COVID-19; Social Distancing (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 17 pages
Date: 2020
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ene, nep-env, nep-hea and nep-reg
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (9) Track citations by RSS feed

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