Are power plant closures a breath of fresh air? Local air quality and school absences

Sarah Komisarow, Emily L. Pakhtigian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In this paper we study the effects of three large, nearly-simultaneous coal-fired power plant closures on school absences in Chicago. We find that the closures resulted in a 6 percent reduction in absenteeism in nearby schools relative to those farther away following the closures. For the typical elementary school in our sample, this translates into around 363 fewer absence-days per year in the aggregate, or 0.66 fewer annual absences per student. To explore potential mechanisms responsible for these absence reductions, we investigate the effects of the closures on endogenous migration to neighborhoods near the plants (mediated through housing prices) and emergency department visits for asthma-related conditions among school-age children. We do not find strong evidence of endogenous migration into neighborhoods near the coal-fired power plants following the closures but do find declines in rates of emergency department visits in areas near the three plants. Given inequalities in exposure to operational coal-fired power plants and other large, industrial polluters, our findings suggest that transitions towards alternative energy sources could play an important role in addressing educational inequality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102569
JournalJournal of Environmental Economics and Management
StatePublished - Mar 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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