Healthy Children, Healthy Economy,
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
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
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
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
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
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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