Pollution and Politician Productivity: The Effect of PM on MPs

Anthony Heyes, Nicholas Rivers and Brandon Schaufele


Applying methods of textual analysis to all 119,225 speeches made in the Canadian House of Commons between 2006 and 2011, we establish that air pollution reduces the speech quality of Canadian members of parliament (MPs). Exposure to fine particulate matter concentrations exceeding 15 µg/m3 causes a 2.3% reduction in the quality of MPs’ speech (equivalent to a 2.6 month decrease in education). For more difficult communication tasks the decrement in quality is equivalent to the loss of 6.5 months of schooling. Our design accounts for the potential endogeneity of exposure and controls for many potential confounders including individual fixed effects. (JEL Q52, Q53)

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