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Healthy Children, Healthy Economy, Researchers Find
by Pamela McLaren


From Dateline (September 25, 2003)

The economic benefits Southern California derives when pollution levels drop can be measured, in part, by the drop in the number of times children are absent from school.

When children stay home from school, so do their working parents, resulting in losses in productivity, which translate into economic losses, say two campus economists.

The researchers’ findings come from a two-year study comparing ozone levels and the number of school absences attributed to upper-respiratory illnesses related to pollution.

Results of the study, performed by Jane V. Hall and Victor Brajer under a California Air Resources Board contract, will appear in next month’s issue of Contemporary Economic Policy.

Hall is a professor of economics and a member of the National Academies of Science Committee on Air Quality Management. She has taught on campus since 1981. Brajer, who has been a member of Cal State Fullerton’s faculty since 1987, is an associate professor of economics.

To establish a value or cost of missed school and missed work, the researchers used a com- bination of number of absences and days of illness symptoms. They did not include other costs, such as visits to the doctor, in their research.

“An assessment of the economic benefits of reducing school absences can help establish more concretely the benefits that have been realized from past ozone reductions and suggest the magnitude of benefits from further progress toward health-based standards,” the researchers noted in the upcoming article.

The study covered four counties: Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside over the period of 1990 to 1999.

“The biggest benefits were seen in areas that had previously had the dirtiest air,” said Hall. “On average, we found that children experienced one less absence a year just because the air they were breathing was cleaner.”

In previous studies, Hall and Brajer have evaluated whether air quality regulations adversely affect the state’s economy and the cost of related health effects from ozone and fine particles in the air.

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