Environmental and Resource Economics

, Volume 66, Issue 3, pp 481–495 | Cite as

Human Development at Risk: Economic Growth with Pollution-Induced Health Shocks

  • Lucas Bretschger
  • Alexandra Vinogradova


Risks to human health stemming from polluted air, water, and soil are substantial, especially in the rapidly growing economies. The present paper develops a theoretical framework to study an endogenously growing economy which is subject to pollution-induced health shocks with the health status being an argument of the welfare function. Pollution, arising as a negative externality from production, adversely and randomly affects the regeneration ability of a human body leading to a decline in the overall health status of the population. We include two types of uncertainty surrounding the health status: continuous small-scale fluctuations, driven by the Wiener process, and large-scale shocks or epidemics, driven by the Poisson process. We derive closed-form analytical solutions for the optimal abatement policy and the growth rate of consumption. Devoting a constant fraction of output to emissions abatement delivers the first-best allocation. This fraction is an increasing function of total factor productivity, polluting intensity of production, and damage intensity of both continuous and jump-type shocks. A higher frequency of jumps also calls for more vigorous abatement policies. By contrast, the optimal growth rate of the economy is decreasing in the frequency and intensity of shocks and in the polluting intensity of output. The efficiency of abatement technology has, in general, an ambiguous bearing on both the growth rate and on the abatement share due to the opposing forces of the direct and indirect effects.


Health shocks Uncertainty Pollution Endogenous growth 

JEL Classification

Q54 I15 O44 D81 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center of Economic Research, CER-ETHZurichSwitzerland

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