BREAD Working Paper No. 496, November 2016

Agricultural Fires and Infant Health

Marcos A. Rangel, Tom S. Vogl


Fire has long served as a tool in agriculture, but this practice’s human capital consequences have proved difficult to study. Drawing on data from satellites, air monitors, and vital records, we study how smoke from sugarcane harvest fires affects infant health in the Brazilian state that produces one-fifth of the world’s sugarcane. Because fires track economic activity, we exploit wind for identification, finding that late-pregnancy exposure to upwind fires decreases birth weight, gestational length, and in utero survival, but not early neonatal survival. Other fires positively predict health, highlighting the importance of disentangling pollution from economic activities that drive it.


JEL classification codes: D62; I15; O13; Q53

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