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Does income inequality aggravate the impacts of air pollution on physical health? Evidence from China

Abstract

Air pollution in China, caused by the country’s extensive economic growth model, threatens the health of residents, especially of low-income groups. The impact and influence mechanism of this pollution on physical health has not been investigated adequately at different income levels. We examine the impact of fine particulate matter on health using panel data for the period 2010–2016 from approximately 100,000 respondents surveyed by China Family Panel Studies. In analysis, we use the hierarchical regression model according to household income per capita. We also examine the effect of residents’ human and physical capital on the relationship between air pollution and health. Our research shows that air pollution has an adverse effect on physical health. However, the significance of this effect is income-based: the effect on low-income groups is significant, while that on high-income groups is not. We also find that air pollution causes both direct and indirect impacts on residents’ health. Indirect impacts entail reductions in human and physical capital; however, this impact is less than the direct one. Therefore, the Chinese government should implement high environmental standards and strict regulations to control air pollution. It should also invest more in low-income areas to improve accessibility of healthcare services.

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Availability of data and materials

China Family Panel Studies (CFPS): The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are available in the Institute of social science survey, Peking University repository, https://doi.org/10.18170/DVN/45LCSO. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5): The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are available in the Atmospheric Composition Analysis Group repository, https://sites.wustl.edu/acag/datasets/surface-pm2-5/.

Notes

  1. Because the data (N = 194) is too small when PM2.5 > 150 μg/m3, the results have changed.

Abbreviations

PM2.5 :

Particle size smaller than 2.5 μm

CFPS:

China Family Panel Studies

WHO:

World Health Organization

PM10:

Particle size smaller than 10 μm

SD:

Standard Deviation

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Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge the China Family Panel Studies (CFPS) team for providing data and the training of using the dataset.

Funding

This work was supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (No. FRF-BR-20-04A).

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Contributions

ZY and JL contributed study design. ZY and ZW conducted all data processing, analyses and initial drafting. YZ and FH ran the model to provide air pollution data. XCY and YQ contributed to the interpretation of the results. WW and JL were involved in the study supervision. All authors contributed in drafting the manuscript and revision. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jing Li.

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Appendix

Appendix

See Tables

Table 7 Provincial estimates of self-rated health and PM2.5 in China for years 2010 − 2016

7,

Table 8 Health effects of different levels of air pollution

8, and

Table 9 Health effects of different levels of air pollution: Lag

9.

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Yang, Z., Wang, Z., Yuan, XC. et al. Does income inequality aggravate the impacts of air pollution on physical health? Evidence from China. Environ Dev Sustain 24, 2120–2144 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-021-01522-w

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Keywords

  • Air pollution
  • Physical health
  • Income inequality
  • Capital
  • China