Inequality, Survival to Adulthood, and the Growth Drag of Pollution

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We theoretically investigate the interrelationship between economic inequality and the exposure to pollutants during the course of economic development. Environmental pollution adversely affects children's probability of surviving to adulthood, thereby reducing parental expenditures on children's quality and increasing the number of births necessary to achieve a desired family size. Children's exposure to environmental pollution is determined by economic inequality because wealthier households live in cleaner areas, which then shapes variations in the level of human capital per child. This is the key mechanism through which environmental conditions impose a growth drag on the economy. Our theory proposes explanations for: (i) the hump-shaped evolution of child mortality ratios between cleaner and more polluted areas during the course of economic development, and (ii) the observed positive correlation between inequality and the concentration of pollutants at the local level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-79
Number of pages21
JournalOxford Economic Papers
Issue number1
Early online date23 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2020


  • I10
  • O10
  • Q50

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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