Coal Smoke, City Growth, and the Costs of the Industrial Revolution

W. Walker Hanlon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This article provides the first rigorous estimates of how industrial air pollution from coal burning affects long-run city growth. I introduce a new theoretically grounded strategy for estimating this relationship and apply it to data from highly polluted British cities from 1851 to 1911. I show that local industrial coal use substantially reduced long-run city employment and population growth. Moreover, a counterfactual analysis suggests that plausible improvements in coal-use efficiency would have led to a higher urbanisation rate in Britain by 1911. These findings contribute to our understanding of the effects of air pollution and the environmental costs of industrialisation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)462-488
Number of pages27
JournalEconomic Journal
Issue number626
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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