Coal Smoke and Mortality in an Early Industrial Economy

Brian Beach, W. Walker Hanlon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Air pollution was severe in the nineteenth century, yet its health consequences are often overlooked due to a lack of pollution data. We offer a new approach for inferring local coal use levels based on local industrial structure and industry-specific coal use intensity. This allows us to provide the first estimates of the mortality effects of British industrial coal use in 1851–60. Exploiting wind patterns for identification, we find that a one standard deviation increase in coal use raised infant mortality by 6–8% and that industrial coal use explains roughly one-third of the urban mortality penalty observed during this period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2652-2675
Number of pages24
JournalEconomic Journal
Issue number615
StatePublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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