Corporations, Environment and Health

By Shanti Gamper-Rabindran, Christopher Timmins - "Hazardous Waste Cleanup, Neighborhood Gentrification, and Environmental Justice: Evidence from Restricted Access Census Block Data".American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings, forthcoming (May 2011).
We test for residential sorting and changes in neighborhood characteristics in response to the cleanup of hazardous waste sites using restricted access fine-geographical-resolution block data. We examine changes between 1990 and 2000 in blocks within 5km of sites that are proposed to the National Priority List that fall in a narrow interval of Hazardous Ranking Scores, comparing blocks near sites that were cleaned with those near sites that were not. Cleanup leads to increases in population density and housing unit density; increases in mean household income and shares of college-educated; but also to increases in the shares of minorities.

By Shanti Gamper-Rabindran, Christopher Timmins, Ralph Mastromonaco - "Valuing the Benefits of Superfund Site Remediation: Three Approaches to Measuring Localized Externalities".National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 16655, January 2011.
We apply three complementary approaches designed to identify the localized effects of Superfund site remediation under the CERCLA, examining data at the level of (i) the census tract (paying attention to within tract heterogeneity), (ii) the census block, and (iii) individual house transaction. Our analysis of the within-tract housing value distribution detects statistically and economically significant appreciation in the lower tails resulting from hazardous waste cleanup; deletion of a site raises tract-level housing values by 18.2% at the 10th percentile, 15.4% at the median, and 11.4% at the 60th percentile. These tract results are confirmed by (i) house transaction data that show cheaper houses within each tract are more likely to be exposed to waste sites within one kilometer, explaining their greater appreciation from site cleanup, and (ii) high-resolution census block data that show greater appreciation among blocks lying closer to the cleaned sites. House-level repeat-sales data confirm results from our national level census analysis by showing that deletion raises housing values relative to proposal in specific markets, such as northern New Jersey, but they also uncover a great heterogeneity in the effects of remediation across markets, with no statistical effects from deletion relative to proposal detected in Los Angeles metro, southwestern Connecticut or Boston metro.

By Shanti Gamper-Rabindran, Christopher Timmins, Shakeeb Khan - "The Impact of Piped Water Provision on Infant Mortality in Brazil: A Quantile Panel Data Approach”.Journal of Development Economics. vol. 92, issue 2, pages 188-200, 2010.
We examine the impact of piped water on the under-1 infant mortality rate (IMR) in Brazil using a novel econometric procedure for the estimation of quantile treatment effects with panel data. The provision of piped water in Brazil is highly correlated with other observable and unobservable determinants of IMR - the latter leading to an important source of bias. Instruments for piped water provision are not readily available, and fixed effects to control for time invariant correlated unobservables are invalid in the simple quantile regression framework. Using the quantile panel data procedure in Chen and Khan (2007), our estimates indicate that the provision of piped water reduces infant mortality by significantly more at the higher conditional quantiles of the IMR distribution than at the lower conditional quantiles (except for cases of extreme underdevelopment). These results imply that targeting piped water intervention in areas with higher conditional quantiles of the IMR, when accompanied by other basic public health inputs, can achieve significantly greater reductions in infant mortality.

By Shanti Gamper-Rabindran, Christopher Timmins - "Estimating Localized Effects of Amenities on Housing Value Using Publicly Available Census Data: A Quantile Approach".In submission.
Hedonic property value models, widely used to estimate the benefits from public goods, often rely on tract-level Decennial Census because of its public availability and nationwide coverage. However, given highly localized externalities at the sub-tract level, the traditional approach of estimating benefits at the median tract-level housing prices may understate or fail to detect these benefits. We propose a simple method to recover these benefits by considering the entire distribution of housing values within the tract. We apply this method to the cleanup of hazardous waste sites under the Superfund program. This method reveals that cleanup of hazardous waste sites cause greater percentage appreciation in housing values at the lower tails of the distribution within the tract. We verify these results using two sources of restricted data. First, our block-level analysis finds comparable results of greater appreciation of housing values in blocks that lie closer to the sites. Second, our house-level analysis from Los Angeles metro finds that that cheaper houses within the tract are more likely to be exposed to the waste sites; thus, explaining their greater benefits from cleanup.

By Shanti Gamper-Rabindran, Stephen R. Finger - “Does Self-Regulation Reduce Pollution? Responsible Care in the Chemicals Industry”.In submission.
Responsible Care (RC) is a worldwide self-regulation program, whose goals include waste minimization beyond existing regulations. We estimate the impact of RC on plant-level pollution correcting for self-selection using exogenous characteristics of other plants belonging to the same firm. In a panel of 1,523 firms, which own 2,735 plants, in the US chemicals industry between 1988 and 2001, we find that participating plants do not reduce their pollution relative to statistically equivalent non-RC participants, both on average and for various subsets of firm and plant characteristics. We conclude that relia¬nce on similarly designed self-regulation programs to reduce pollution is premature.

By Shanti Gamper-Rabindran - “NAFTA and the Environment: What Can the Data Tell Us?”.Economic Development and Cultural Change. Vol. 54, pp. 605-633, April 2006.
Critics of trade liberalization agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have expressed concerns that polluting industries will locate in developing countries to evade more stringent regulation, with adverse environmental consequences. A study of NAFTA's effects on U.S.- Mexico trade finds that despite differences in the stringency of U.S. and Mexican environmental policies, NAFTA did not cause Mexico to specialize in dirtier industries between 1989 and 1999. Regarding the location of manufacturing production during the NAFTA transition, although growth was fastest in the congested Mexican border region, growth declined in the congested central region and increased in the less congested interior region, with all regions shifting toward less polluting industries. Most of the observed measures of air quality in the border region, which can serve as an indicator of NAFTA's short-term scale effects, do not exhibit significant breaks in their trend of improvement.

By Shanti Gamper-Rabindran - “Did the EPA's Voluntary Industrial Toxics Program Reduce Emissions? A GIS Analysis of Distributional Impacts and By-Media Analysis of Substitution”.Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, March 2006.
Voluntary programs in which manufacturing plants pledge to reduce their emissions beyond the legal requirement have been promoted as a low-cost way to achieve health and environmental protection. The EPA's Industrial Toxics program is evaluated using an author-assembled GIS-database of manufacturing plants in the 48 contiguous states, controlling for mandated reductions in ozone depleting chemicals and changes in reporting of emissions. I find that, controlling for participants' self-selection into the program, relative to non-participants, participants do not reduce their health-indexed emissions of target chemicals in several key industries. Where reductions are detected in selected industries, participants' increased off-site transfers to recyclers give reasons to question whether this program truly reduced emissions. Moreover, the program did not reduce emissions in less politically active communities.

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