A China Project Research Seminar with Siqi ZHENG, the Samuel Tak Lee Associate Professor of Real Estate Development and Entrepreneurship in the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and the Faculty Director, MIT China Future City Lab.
Abstract: China has experienced rapid economic growth in the last three decades, accompanied by escalating air pollution. In contrast to previous studies on the direct health and productivity effects, our research instead draws attention to the broader social costs of air pollution in Chinese cities by examining the negative effects of air pollution on social activities in cities, the social interactions embodied in such activities, and urbanites’ subjective well-being. This study combines approaches from urban economics, behavioral sciences, and environmental studies to connect individual-level human behavior with estimates of aggregate-level social welfare by utilizing several unique sources of spatial-temporal big data: dianping.com, China’s Yelp; Tencent mobile positioning; Weibo, China’s Twitter; PM2.5 data, and other data. This study performs causal analysis using the instrumental variables (IV) technique. The results will provide insights into the social cost of air pollution in China, which suggest socially responsible policies aimed at mitigating air pollution and promoting social activities and interactions in cities.