Climate Change and Occupational Health—Can We Adapt?

graph shows warmer temperatures result in more injuries in warmer climates

Greenhouse gases accumulating in the earth’s atmosphere are poised to raise global temperatures considerably in a relatively short period of time. While using air conditioning and limiting outdoor exposure can mitigate the adverse effects of high temperatures, these approaches are not feasible in all situations. In particular, the hundreds of millions of workers around the world exposed to outdoor temperatures as part of their jobs may face additional adaptation challenges relative to the rest of the population. Despite considerable attention devoted to understanding the impact of temperature on a variety of outcomes and behaviors, little is currently known about the effect of temperature on workers’ health.

In a new study, Marcus Dillender (University of Illinois–Chicago) assesses the effect of temperature on occupational health by combining worker injury and illness reports with weather information at daily frequencies. He finds that both high and low temperatures have adverse effects on occupational health.

In contrast to previous research on temperature and mortality, Dillender finds no evidence that the ability to adapt to high temperatures has led to hot days having less severe effects on occupational health in warm climates. Instead, the evidence shows that hot days have more severe effects in warm climates, which suggests that avoidance practices may be easier when extreme temperatures are rare.

For example, construction workers in states like Michigan and Wisconsin can avoid working or avoid doing their most dangerous work on the rare day above 95°F degrees. But in states like Arizona or Texas, days over 95°F are common, and working on these days cannot be avoided.

The graph shows estimates of the effect of temperature on workers’ compensation claim rates for warmer-climate areas compared to colder-climate areas, and relative to a base differential between areas when the daily high temperatures are between 59°F and 61°F. The sample includes 2,615,672 observations of sites and days. The injury data come from Mining Safety and Health Administration logs for 2006–2014 and contain information on 13,013 injuries. The graph clearly shows the number of claims increase in warmer climates with higher temperatures.

While adaptation is feasible and practical in many settings with currently available technology, the results of this study suggest that the negative effects of high temperatures on occupational health are more severe when high temperatures are common. Dillender: “This is notable since the effect of high temperatures when high temperatures are common is relevant for assessing the future costs of global warming and for setting policy to either avoid or deal with those costs.”

Read the full study in the Journal of Human Resources: “Climate Change and Occupational Health: Are There Limits to Our Ability to Adapt?” by Marcus Dillender.

Marcus Dillender is at the University of Illinois–Chicago.

How to Increase Workplace Diversity? Start by Asking for Diverse Candidates


Many firms have set ambitious goals to increase diversity among their employees, but there is a dearth of empirical evidence on effective ways to reach these goals. Despite significant education gains among underrepresented groups, and substantial resources devoted to enhancing employee diversity in high-profile occupations, many firms still struggle to increase diversity in the workforce.
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Taking an AP Science Class in High School—Positive and Negative Effects

student with book

The AP program has been widely adopted in secondary schools, yet the evidence on the impact of taking AP courses has been entirely observational. The challenge faced in prior studies has been that students self-select into advanced high school courses. This makes it difficult to disentangle the effect of taking these advanced courses from the characteristics of students (e.g., ambition) that might prompt their decisions to take AP classes.
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The Kalamazoo Promise—Keeping Its Promise to Expand College Enrollment and Completion

Kalamazoo Promise resulted in increased degrees and certificates

More than 150 communities throughout the country have adopted place-based college scholarships, and several states now offer similar tuition-free programs for high school graduates. What sets these programs apart from earlier college scholarships is their local nature, typically a school district, and their lack of stringent merit or financial need requirements. With few hoops to jump through, these scholarships are simple for students to understand, but can they broadly boost college enrollment and completion?
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Academic Outcomes for the Siblings of Teen Moms

graphs comparing siblings of teen moms with matches with similar backgrounds

When a teen mom brings a baby into the home, there might be effects on her younger siblings, but conducting research on these effects is difficult because families where teen birth occurs differ from other families in many important ways. In fact, in new research, Jennifer Heissel demonstrates that teen childbearing has negative spillovers to younger siblings, and that the test scores of both teen moms and their siblings are already on a downward trajectory for years before the teen mom actually gives birth.
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Ending Education Apartheid in Zimbabwe Increased Education for Adolescents—And Their Children

When Zimbabwe dismantled barriers to education, transition to secondary school tripled.

UNESCO reports that 200 million adolescents were out of school in 2016. This missed opportunity is especially costly because secondary education brings substantial intergenerational benefits, as Jorge Agüero and Maithili Ramachandran show in a new study to be published in the Journal of Human Resources.
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Sulfa Antibiotics for Pneumonia in Children—A Look at Later-Life Outcomes

fewer pneumonia deaths and more income after introduction of sulfa antibiotics

Pneumonia infection is a leading cause of illness in children worldwide, but we know little about its long-term consequences. Economists are interested in the long-run effects of large-scale interventions in early life. Volha Lazuka (Lund University) explores this question in the context of the introduction of sulfa antibiotics in Sweden. In a study comparing cohorts born before and after access to this intervention and across regions with varying burden of acute pneumonia, Lazuka is able to estimate its effects and specific mechanisms leading to later-life outcomes.
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Do Higher Salaries Yield Better Teachers and Better Student Outcomes?

Program to increase teacher pay increased teacher experience.

More experienced and better qualified teachers are less likely to teach in schools that serve children from relatively poor families. This could have important consequences for student outcomes. To attract more experienced teachers, schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods might consider offering higher salaries. José María Cabrera (Universidad de Montevideo, Uruguay) and Dinand Webbink (Erasmus School of Economics, Rotterdam, Tinbergen Institute, IZA) asked: What is the impact of higher salaries on teachers and students?
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Benefits of Smaller Classes—A Cautionary Tale


The relationship between class size and human capital is one of the most researched and debated questions in education, but evidence on this matter has been difficult to come by. In a recent study reported in the JHR, Edwin Leuven and Sturla Løkken present long-term impact estimates of average class size in compulsory school (Grades 1–9) for Norway, specifically looking at effects on income.
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Nonbinding Peer Reviews Can Improve Team Effort and Productivity

One person working, one person on his phone

Working in teams presents many advantages, from knowledge sharing to technological complementarities, but also a major drawback—individuals may be tempted to let others do the work, a phenomenon known as “free-riding.” In a recent study, Kristian Behrens (Université du Québec à Montréal) and Matthieu Chemin (McGill University) examined groups of students assigned a multi-week group project in order to find a successful strategy for motivating team members.
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