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Effects of Early Childhood Exposure to Pollution on Crime: Evidence from 1970 Clean Air Act

Sadana, Divya (2021): Effects of Early Childhood Exposure to Pollution on Crime: Evidence from 1970 Clean Air Act.

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Abstract

Past literature has shown that 1970 amendments to the Clean Air Act (CAA) led to significant reduction in air pollution early 1970s, and that it had positive infant health consequences for the cohorts treated by CAA. Because effects of in-utero and early childhood conditions are persistent, and the health effects can remain latent for years, CAA may impact the future adult outcomes. In this paper, I investigate the impact of the CAA on the future crime. In a difference-in-differences framework, I find that the cohorts that were born in the year of the CAA’s first implementation commit fewer crimes 15 to 24 years later. The magnitude of this impact is about 4 percent. Property crimes rather than violent crimes are impacted. I also estimate that CAA reduced the ambient air pollution by 14 percent. These reduced form estimates suggest that a one percent reduction in air pollution reduces future crime rate by 0.3 percent.

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