Agricultural Expansion, Air Pollution, and Child Health: Evidence from Pre-Harvest Sugarcane Burning in Brazil

Marcos A. Rangel, Princeton University and University of Chicago
Tom Vogl, Princeton University

Researchers across the social sciences have raised the point that returns to early childhood investments are very significant. The argument is reinforced by the literature that relates in utero conditions to health and socioeconomic outcomes in adulthood. In the present article I combine administrative data from approximately 4 million birth records in the state of Sao Paulo (Brazil) between 2002 and 2009 with satellite imaging of sugar-cane field fires in order to examine the impact of exposure to biomass burning over birth outcomes. The period under scrutiny illustrates a major expansion of the Brazilian agricultural frontier, with particular strong increase in the sugar-cane production relative to all other cultures. Changes in environmental regulations and harvest mechanization, both operating to reduce smoke incidence around heavily populated areas, also have their impact empirically investigated.

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Presented in Session 4: Population and Environment I