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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Unintended Impacts of Agricultural Fires: Human Capital In China

  • Author(s): Zivin, Joshua S. Graff
  • Liu, Tong
  • Song, Yingquan
  • Tang, Qu
  • Zhang, Peng
  • et al.

The practice of burning agricultural waste is ubiquitous around the world, yet the external human capital costs from those fires have been underexplored. Using data from the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE) and agricultural fires detected by high-resolution satellites in China during 2005 to 2011, this paper investigates the impacts of fires on cognitive performance. To address the endogeneity of agricultural fires, we differentiate upwind fires from downwind fires. We find that a one-standard-deviation increase in the difference between upwind and downwind fires during the exam decreases the total exam score by 1.42 percent of a standard deviation (or 0.6 point), and further decreases the probability of getting into first-tier universities by 0.51 percent of a standard deviation.

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