The multinational and heterogeneous burden of air pollution on well-being

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Air pollution is a global issue, but data availability has restricted research on its impact on well-being to primarily individual and developed countries. Owing to this lack of data, there is no consensus on the factors influencing the impact of air pollution on well-being across countries. Thus, this paper aims to provide an inclusive view onto the heterogeneous impact of pollution on well-being with regard to income based on a sample of 30 countries. With monthly nitrogen dioxide changes monitored by satellite data, we estimate how individual and national income influence the impact of air pollution on the well-being of respondents to an international survey. To identify the burden of pollution on well-being, we focus on the impact of monthly changes in pollution induced by monthly changes in planetary boundary layers’ height, via an instrumental variable strategy. Within countries, we find that air pollution reduces the well-being of low-income individuals and people living in highly polluted areas to a greater extent than that of others. Thus, it appears that populations in developing countries and countries with high income inequality suffer the highest burden of air pollution on their well-being than those in developed countries and countries with low income inequality. However, populations in highly polluted countries and highly productive countries are the least affected by pollution. These results show that using an economic index to assess distress associated with pollution is inappropriate for addressing its heterogeneous burden. Furthermore, habituation to pollution by populations in highly polluted countries may threaten international collaboration for pollution reduction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128530
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - Oct 10 2021


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