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Because pollution increases crime and worsens academic performance

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The air quality in the Po Valley has improved considerably in recent decades, while remaining very bad. It is not only the health of the tens of millions of residents in the regions of Northern Italy that is at the expense. L’pollution it also leads to an increase in crime and a worsening of academic performance. At first glance, the connection between these phenomena is perhaps obscure (even if, let us remember, in not so distant times not even the damage caused by cigarette smoke was considered “obvious”), but it emerges clearly from a series of studies that they use the very techniques for which the prize was awarded last week Nobel Prize in Economics .

How to show that polluted air damages children’s learning abilities? For example, looking at schools that are less than 250 meters from an important road artery, then exploiting the prevailing wind direction to determine the cause-and-effect relationship between exposure to pollutants and pupils’ results.

Pollution effect on votes

This is what Jennifer A. Heissel, Claudia Persico and David Simon of American University in Washington did in a recently published study with other colleagues. Statistically speaking, they followed the students in moving between elementary and middle schools or between middle and high schools. When a student moves to an educational institution where the air is more polluted, the grade point average tends to drop. In addition, the days of absence from school increase and the probability of behaving in such a way as to receive a disciplinary measure such as suspension.

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The outcome of important exams such as high school exams is also influenced by air pollution. A study conducted on Israeli data shows that if the exam is held on a day when the smog is particularly heavy, then the results are worse on average. This has repercussions, for example, on the possibility of entering selective university faculties as medicine and, consequently, it can mark the working career permanently.

Pollution effect on crime

Years of study and effort can be compromised by a spike in fine dust. But there is more. Living in an area with lower air quality puts you at greater risk of being the victim of assaults and other types of violent crime. Again, an ingenious method is needed to show that it is a cause-and-effect relationship and not a simple correlation. After all, the most polluted neighborhoods are presumably also neighborhoods with greater poverty and unemployment, perhaps even with greater dependency problems.

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