Healthy air, healthy mom: Experimental evidence from Chinese power plants
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© 2020 Elsevier B. V.
We examine the effect of air pollution clean-up measures on reducing pregnancy risks in China. Using policy-driven variations across provinces and over time, we undertake a natural experiment that examines the effect of mandated Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD) installation in Chinese power plants. Matching our novel measure of FGD intensity with province-level administrative data spanning the period 2002–2011, our estimates indicate that desulfurizing a power plant with a capacity of 10,000 MW decreases high-risk pregnancy for at least 177 mothers in every 10,000 cases. On the potential mechanism, we find that this desulfurization intervention decreases both prenatal and postnatal medical examinations because there is a decrease in the incidence of gynecological diseases. Our results are robust to a wide array of randomization tests, restrictive specifications, omitted variable biases, and to falsification and placebo tests. From a policy perspective, we estimate that the adoption of FGD in China saves approximately 83,405 mothers from high-risk pregnancy in a five-year period.