Population and Environment

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 203–222 | Cite as

Using satellite imagery to measure the relationship between air quality and infant mortality: an empirical study for Mexico

  • Emilio GutierrezEmail author
Original Paper


This research uses a unique dataset that provides relatively inexpensive measures of air quality at detailed geography. The analytical focus is the relationship, in Mexico, between Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD, a measure of air quality obtained from satellite imagery) and infant mortality due to respiratory diseases from January, 2001 through December, 2006. The results contribute to existing literature on the relationship between air pollution and health outcomes by examining, for the first time, the relationship between these variables for the entire land area of Mexico, for most of which no ground measures of pollution concentrations exist. Substantive results suggest that changes in AOD have a significant impact on infant mortality due to respiratory diseases in municipalities in the three highest AOD quartiles in the country, providing evidence that air pollution’s adverse effects, although nonlinear, are not only present in large cities, but also in lower pollution settings which lack ground measures of pollution. Methodologically, it is argued that satellite-based imagery can be a valuable source of information for both researchers and policy makers when examining the consequences of pollution and/or the effectiveness of pollution-control mechanisms.


Air pollution Satellite imagery Aerosol optical depth Infant mortality Mexico Respiratory disease Public health 



An earlier version of this article is one of the chapters of my PhD dissertation in Economics from Brown University. This work was partially funded by the grant from PRB/Hewlett “The Effects of Health and Demographic Change on Economic Growth: Integrating Micro and Macro Perspectives”. I am grateful to Andrew Foster for his guidance and support. The editor and three anonymous referees contributed great suggestions. I also thank Naresh Kumar for providing the satellite imagery data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ITAMCentro de Investigación EconómicaMexico, D.F.Mexico

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