Labor Market and Program Participation Impacts of Health and Productivity Shocks: Evidence from Forest Fire Smoke

Award Year


Grant Type

Early Career Research Award


How do workers, particularly those approaching retirement, respond to health and productivity shocks? We use air pollution events driven by the smoke plumes of forest fires as exogenous shocks to worker health and productivity, and examine resulting labor market outcomes. Preliminary results suggest workers experience significant declines in earnings, decreases in labor force participation and increases in retirement income, with changes concentrated among workers near retirement. Effects are largest in tight labor markets and in above-median-income ZIP codes, suggesting effects may be driven by avoidance behavior. The proposed research will quantify direct health and mortality effects of the shocks, as well as fund a research assistant who will aid in the collection and cleaning of data on program participation and labor demand effects. Specifically, this funding will allow us to purchase data from the California Department of Public Health on emergency room visits, hospital admissions and cause-specific mortality. The funded research assistant will aid in the data collection and cleaning of California worker's compensation, industry-month employment and unemployment insurance claims data.