The issues of environmental degradation and air pollution are pressing concerns in China.
This is particularly true in urban areas that are experiencing the exponential growth of energy consumption, accompanied by rapid urban expansion and overall economic growth during the past decade. According to a report from the Asian Development Bank, less than 1% of 500 Chinese cities meet the air quality guidelines (10 µg/m3 for an average annual PM2.5 concentration) recommended by the WHO. Along with corruption, income inequality and unemployment, the environmental problem has become a major cause of social unrest in China (Zhang, 2007). Exponential increases in the availability of information about the pollution level and its negative effects on people have raised the importance of how people feel about pollution’s impact on their everyday life.
This study uses the life satisfaction approach to evaluate the effect of air pollution in the northeast region of China, which is one of the most severely polluted regions in China.
This study uses self-reported SWB data from an original Internet survey conducted in 2016, which allows us to provide the latest empirical evidence on SWB in China. This study combines detailed PM2.5data at the city level and combine it with survey to analyze the impact of air quality on life satisfaction. Our results are consistent with the evidence from previous studies that air pollution has a significant negative impact on people’s life satisfaction. The results also show that the effect of air pollution on subjective well-being is affected by individual characteristics. In particular, a poor subjective evaluation of health condition and having young children result in significant increase of participants’
MV for air pollution reduction. The effect of air pollution levels also depends on whether people spend on environmental activities.
In recent years, the Chinese government has seriously addressed the issue of air pol-lution by introducing various measures to remedy the situation. Chinese policy makers have also acknowledged that the way people perceive environmental problems does mat-ter. In an official government press release in 2014, Chinese president Jinping Xi stated,
”air quality has directly affected the Chinese people’s happiness.” Although our study is limited in coverage, there are areas that share similar characteristics with our target re-gion. In China, there are industrial regions such as those in Middle Yangtze and Sichuan where mining and heavy manufacturing industries are concentrated. Moreover, outside of China, industrial regions in developing areas such as the Chota Nagpur Plateaus re-gion in India, La Plata urban districts in Argentina, and Belo Horizonte in Brazil share similar industrial characteristics and environmental problems. Thus, the implications of our empirical results are somewhat indicative of what is happening in these areas.
According to our empirical results, the government may increase the overall welfare of its people by paying more attention to particular groups that are vulnerable to the negative effects of air pollution. In particular, for people who have a poor subjective health evaluation and/or live with young children under 6 years old, government agencies may take specific measures to relieve people’s anxiety regarding the potential health risk of air pollution by providing outlets for their concerns and by communicating preventative measures that people can take to mitigate damages from air pollution.
The impact of air pollution on the subjective well-being in Beijing and Shanghai
This study evaluates the impact of one of the most prevalent and prioritized environ-mental problems, air pollution that is responsible for an estimated seven million deaths annually, or one in eight premature deaths every year. Previous studies have shown ro-bust negative impact of air pollution on SWB. However, empirical studies that consider variability in air pollution affect both by pollutants and cities are rather limited. De-spite the fact that air pollution levels are determined by the concentrations of a complex mixture of air pollutants, most empirical studies use a specific pollutant as a proxy for overall air pollution level (e.g. Levinson, 2012; Ferreira et al., 2013). Also, few studies have performed city-level comparative analyses. Hence, this study provides a case appli-cation that examine the impacts of four major pollutants on SWB, i.e., the Sulfur Dioxide
(SO2), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), coarse particles with a diameter between 2.5 and 10 µm (PM10) and fine particles with a diameter of 2.5µm or less (PM2.5) in two major Chinese cities: Beijing and Shanghai.
Most related studies use aggregated air pollution datasets at regional or local levels, which are sufficient for yielding robust results. However, as Brereton et al. (2008) sug-gested, the explanatory power of the subjective well-being function can be increased if location-specific factors are taken into account. Moreover, previous studies have noted that a limited availability of pollution data at the local or regional level restricted their analyses to either the national level or a particular, localized area where richer data were available (Rehdanz and Maddison, 2005; Welsch, 2006). These remarks indicate the importance of local analyses with detailed pollution data.
This study uses the data from an original Internet social survey conducted in 2016 to analyze the impact of air pollution on the life satisfaction (LS) of Beijing and Shanghai residents. These data are matched with pollutant estimates for the locations of the respondents within each city. Given that air pollution is a localized phenomenon and that air pollution levels have spatial variation, particularly in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, this study uses geographic information system (GIS) interpolation techniques to estimate residents’ exposure to each pollutant using air pollution data from monitoring sites in the cities. This study also uses different time specifications in order to further evaluate the variability in impacts of air pollution across the residents of Beijing and Shanghai. Pollution exposure on the day of the survey is used as the main indicator, and the impact of the changes in pollution exposure on the days leading up to the survey date is used to examine whether resident well-being is sensitive to the pollution level in the recent past.