The Climate, Environment, and Human Capital Working Group

Human capital is widely viewed as playing an essential role in the creation of wealth and economic growth, particularly in developing countries; however, our understanding of the relationship between environmental quality and other elements of human capital is just emerging.

While the impacts of adverse environmental conditions on health are reasonably well understood, our understanding of its relationship to other elements of human capital is not fully formed. Early evidence suggests negative effects on cognitive ability, and school and job performance.

In 2012, in collaboration with the UC Center for Energy and Environmental Economics, the Center for Environmental Economics, and the UC Office of the President Office of Research and Graduate Studies, IGCC launched the Climate, Environment, and Human Capital Working Group, a multicampus consortium of researchers in this emerging field.

Project Goals

Since most of the research on air quality and human capital is being conducted by a small set of scholars, there is tremendous value to bringing them together at this formative stage in the field. The working group hopes to accomplish the following: 

Refine Methodologies
By meeting to discuss and compare data, methodology, and early-stage puzzles, scholars have the opportunity to develop consensus opinion on methodology where feasible and on protocols to facilitate cross-study comparisons when alternative methodologies are employed.

Create a Data Core
Given the data-intensive nature of this work, the working group will enhance research efficiency by avoiding duplicative coding efforts. All research in this area requires the merging of spatially disaggregated air quality and climate data with socioeconomic data of interest. Workshop participants will share code that performs these functions with the ultimate goal of sharing these programs with researchers outside of the working group.

Provide International Comparisons
The group will discuss research from a wide range of countries to probe the generalizability of findings across settings (particularly developed to developing country), International comparisons are an essential part of the project since global climate change is expected to have different impacts on climate and wellbeing across countries. Likely candidates include China, India, Thailand, Chile, Mexico, the European Union, and the United States. This breadth of coverage will help introduce participants to new data sources as well as new applications to existing ones.

Inform Policymaking
Why should governments, particularly in developing countries, care about the environment? By establishing a body of evidence on the impacts of poor environmental quality on human capital and thus economic growth, the group hopes to build the case for environmental policy as good economic sense.

Since poor air quality is often associated with the combustion of fossil fuels, recognition of these impacts may also help re-shape climate negotiations by highlighting the local co-benefits associated with addressing global environmental problems. Similarly, identification of new channels through which climate change may impact human capital and health is essential to devise optimal climate policy.

Create New Research Linkages
Finally, the establishment of this working group and its meetings is expected to generate new collaborative research programs that will deepen our understanding in this area from a wide range of international perspectives. Such knowledge is critical for good policymaking under the challenges that lie ahead.




Note: Publication links are provided as a courtesy. Your access is dependent on your institution’s library holdings and online access policies.

Graff Zivin, Joshua, Solomon M. Hsiang, and Matthew Neidell. "Temperature and Human Capital in the Short-and Long-Run." NBER Working Paper No. 21157. May 2015. 

Graff Zivin, Joshua, and Matthew Neidell. “Temperature and the Allocation of Time: Implications for Climate Change.” Journal of Labor Economics 32 (2014): 1‒26.

Graff Zivin, Joshua, and Matthew Neidell. “Environment, Health, and Human Capital.” Journal of Economic Literature 51 (2013): 689‒730.