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Population, immigration, and air quality in the USA: a spatial panel study

Abstract

The role of population size in environmental degradation is a source of both political and academic debate, with the role of immigrant population being particularly salient in developed countries such as the USA. We test the relationship between two population specifications and air quality in the US context, using spatial panel analysis of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index, population, and other explanatory variables for contiguous US counties from 2007 to 2014. We find that both population in general and immigrant population in particular are associated with better, rather than worse air quality. These results are in line with political economy theories arguing that population is not the root cause of environmental problems and coincide with empirical findings of ecologically unequal exchange between core and peripheral countries.

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Funding

This study was funded by Utah Agricultural Experiment Station (grant number UTA01269).

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Correspondence to Guizhen Ma.

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1. This information was learned through communication with Senior Statistician David Mintz of Air Quality Analysis Group at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during February 21 and 23, 2017.

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Ma, G., Hofmann, E.T. Population, immigration, and air quality in the USA: a spatial panel study. Popul Environ 40, 283–302 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11111-018-0311-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11111-018-0311-9

Keywords

  • Spatial panel model
  • Population
  • Immigration
  • Environment
  • Air quality
  • USA