Sunday, March 16, 2008

What's Avoiding Asthma in China Worth?

Not much:
what is it worth to reduce the incidence of asthma in China due to air pollution?

Well I'm glad you asked.

I am currently working on revising a paper titled: CONTINGENT VALUATON AND THE ECONOMIC VALUE OF AIR-POLLUTION-RELATED HEALTH RISKS IN CHINA*. The paper is part of a student's (Xiaoqi Guo) dissertation and is joint work with Jim Hammitt at Harvard. In it, we find that residents of Chengdu, China are willing to pay approximately 13,685 yuan (US$1711) for pollution reductions per case of asthma avoided. We further find that the implied value of a statistical life due air pollution related mortality is 189,960 yuan (US$23,745).

For those not familiar with value of statistical life computations, that's pretty low.

china is a huge place with a billion people and a huge income disparity, how are you accounting for that? what about sample section bias?
maybe it's the fact that it's asthma that we're talking about. i mean maybe the awareness just isn't being spread about the severity of deaths related to asthma and people don't take it seriously because it is not thought of as an extremely high-risk illness such as cancer and AIDS. Personally, asthma has never seemed that threatening to me. that is probably because i don't have any close friends or relatives who have suffered from it. But that's just aversion to contracting it. I have a feeling that it still holds though. Is it possible that people don't make that distinction?
what about the available options when it comes to asthma causes? China is opening one coal fired power plant per day, and to many Chinese this is seen as a good thing, not an asthma risk. When the choice is between electricity and all that accompanies it (investment, improved services, infrastructure), and no electricity due to possible risk from coal emissions, there doesn't seem to be much of a choice.
I agree with what kelly rogala said, but keep in mind Chengdu is one of the more advanced cities in China, and was once ancient capital of the Shu state (Chengdu means capital), and is less well known for industrial practices.
I would like to see this study replicated in Beijing, where there have been international complaints of poor air quality as the Olympics draws near. I don't know the exact benefit of a comparison though. It could highlight Kiel's point.
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