research institute for compassionate economics

Health externalities of India’s expansion of coal plants: Evidence from a national panel of 40,000 households

By Aashish Gupta, Dean Spears, on December 1st, 2016

Coal power generation is expanding rapidly in India and other developing countries. In addition to consequences for climate change, present-day health externalities may also substantially increase the social cost of coal. Health consequences of air pollution have proven important in studies of developed countries, but, despite clear importance, similarly well-identified estimates are less available for developing countries, and no estimates exist for the important case of coal in India. We exploit panel data on Indian households, matched to local changes in exposure to coal plants. Increased exposure to coal plants is associated with worse respiratory health. Consistent with a causal mechanism, the effect is specific: no effect is seen on diarrhea or fever, and no effect on respiratory health is seen of new non-coal plants. Our result is not due to endogenous avoidance behavior, or to differential trends in determinants of respiratory health, either before the period studied or simultaneously.

Download Published: Working Paper       Geography: India