Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pollution has an impact on worker productivity

Pollution regulation is typically cast as a game between citizens and firms, the first suffering the consequences of pollution while the second are the origin of the pollution. In such a case, there is no incentive for firms to abate pollution, and the government has to mediate. But could a case be made that firms should be willing, individually or collectively, to reduce pollution. One way can be green labeling, which could increase the demand for their products. Another would be if firms realize pollution has an impact on their on productivity or on the labor supply.

Joshua Graff Zivin and Matthew Neidell take the worker productivity angle by using a dataset of dairy farm workers from a large farm in the Central Valley of California. In particular, they look how ozone levels impact the output of piece rate workers. At it is substantial. For example, a 10 ppb reduction of ozone increases productivity by 4.2%, noting that the standard deviation of ozone levels is 13 ppb. And if you object that some of the workers fall under minimum wage law and may not exert the right effort, be reassured, the authors took that into account. In addition, this impact happens even when the ozone level is well below the current national standards. Realizing this, industry should be more willing to accept the suggested tightening of pollution standards for ozone, and for nitrogen oxides and volatile organic chemicals that are the source of ground-level ozone.


Anonymous said...

I doubt that agriculture corporations are against tighter pollution controls. I bet that this result does not hold for industries with indoor workers, and that these industries are the ones that most ardently argue against pollution controls.

Anonymous said...

Is indoor ozone pollution different from outdoors?

Anonymous said...

Ozone pollution alerts are meant to minimize outdoor activities. Therefore indoor ozone pollution must be different from outdoors ozone pollution.