Ambient air pollution and consumer spending: Evidence from Spain

John Brandt, N. Goyal, Matthew Moroney, Sophie Janaskie, Angel Hsu

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Research on the economic burden of air pollution has focused primarily on its macroeconomic impact. However, as some studies have found that air pollution can lead to avoidance behavior–for example, reducing the time spent outdoors–we hypothesize that it can also influence consumer spending activity. We combine high frequency data on ozone and fine particulate pollution with daily consumer spending in brick-and-mortar retail in 129 postal codes in Spain during 2014 to estimate the association between the two. Using a linear fixed effects model, we find that a 1-standard deviation increase in ozone concentration (20.97 μg/m3) is associated with 3.9 percent decrease in consumer spending (95% CI: -0.066, -0.012; p<0.01). The association of fine particulate matter with consumer spending is, however, not statistically significant (β: 0.005; 95% CI: -0.009, 0.018; p>0.10). Further, we do not observe a sufficiently strong bounce-back in consumer spending in the day–or even the week–following higher ozone concentration. Also, we find that the relationship between ozone concentration and consumer spending is heterogeneous, with those aged below 25 and those aged 45 or above exhibiting stronger negative association. This research informs policymakers about a plausibly unaccounted cost of ambient air pollution, even at concentrations lower than the WHO air quality guideline for short-term exposure.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0292245
Pages (from-to)1-17
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1 January
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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