Global warming, pollution and cognitive developments
The effects of high pollution and temperature levels on cognitive ability throughout
the life course
Global warming and air pollution threaten human health, economic prosperity and human
capital accumulation. The current review presents empirical findings on the effect
of adverse environmental conditions on cognition, with a focus on pollution and high
temperatures. The review takes a life-course perspective and quantifies both the direct
and indirect effects of cumulative and transitory exposure to adverse conditions on
cognition starting in-utero all the way to exposure in old age. The review makes clear
that exposure to pollutants and high temperatures has economically meaningful costs
for both individuals and societies, stemming from lower human capital accumulation.
Furthermore, the evidence presented indicates that adverse environmental conditions
have large distributional consequences, leading to widening disparities in educational
opportunities both across countries and across socio-economic groups within-countries.
The review discusses the mechanisms underpinning these effects and explores policies
that have the potential to mitigate the negative impact of adverse conditions on cognition.
Available from February 25, 2022
In series:OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papersview more titles