Department of Economics

Research seminar with Stephan Heblich (University of Bristol): East Side Story: Historical Pollution and Persistent Neighborhood Sorting

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Welcome to our research seminar with Associate Professor Stephan Heblich at the University of Bristol.

Title: "East Side Story: Historical Pollution and Persistent Neighborhood Sorting"


Why are the East sides of former industrial cities more deprived? We relate this to the historically unequal distribution of air pollutants across neighborhoods. We geolocate nearly 5,000 industrial chimneys in 70 English cities in 1880 and use an atmospheric dispersion model to recreate the spatial distribution of pollution. Individual-level census data show that pollution induced neighborhood sorting over the nineteenth century: it explains up to 15% of within-city deprivation in 1881. These equilibria persist to this day even though the initial pollution sources have waned. A quantitative model shows the role of non-linearities and tipping-like dynamics in such persistence.