Impact of air pollution on human activities: Evidence from nine million mobile phone users
Chen, Wei; He, YingHua; Pan, Shiyuan
To measure the effects of air pollution on human activities, this study applies statistical/econometric modeling to hourly data of 9 million mobile phone users from six cities in China’s Zhejiang Province from December 18 to 21, 2013. Under a change in air quality from “Good” (Air Quality Index, or AQI, between 51 and 100) to “Heavily Polluted” (AQI between 201 to 300), the following effects are demonstrated. (i) Consistent with the literature, for every one million people, 1, 482 fewer individuals are observed at parks, 95% confidence interval or CI (−2, 229, −735), which represents a 15% decrease. (ii) The number of individuals at shopping malls has no statistically significant change. (iii) Home is the most important location under worsening air quality, and for every one million people, 63, 088 more individuals are observed at home, 95% CI (47, 815, 78, 361), which represents a 19% increase. (iv) Individuals are on average 633 meters closer to their home, 95% CI (529, 737); as a benchmark, the median distance from home ranges from 300 to 1900 meters across the cities in our sample. These effects are not due to weather or government regulations. We also provided provisional evidence that individuals engage in inter-temporal activity substitutions within a day, which leads to mitigated (but not nullified) effects of air pollution on daily activities.