Institute for Economic and Social Research


Journal of Development Economics


The Unintended Impacts of Agricultural Fires: Human Capital in China

Journal of Development Economics 

Joshua Graff Zivin, Tong Liu, Yingquan Song, Qu Tang, Peng Zhang


The practice of burning agricultural waste is ubiquitous around the world, yet the external human capital costs from those fires have been underexplored. Using data from the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE) and agricultural fires in China from 2005 to 2011, this paper investigates the impacts of fires on cognitive performance. We find that a one-standard-deviation increase in the difference between upwind and downwind fires during the exam decreases the total exam score by 1.42 percent of a standard deviation (or 0.6 points), and further decreases the probability of getting into first-tier universities by 0.51 percent of a standard deviation.


Cognitive performance; Human capital; Agricultural fire; Air pollution

JEL classification

Q10; Q53; O13; I20; I30; J20


Copyright © 2019 Institute for Economic and Social Research ICP record No.: Yue ICP Bei No. 12087612