The health effects of automobile fuel economy through improvements in air quality

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Qing Shi (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Stephen Holland

Abstract: In this dissertation, I evaluate the health effects of the automobile (or vehicle) fuel economy. Automobile fuel economy is regulated by the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards put into effect in 1975 in the United States primarily to reduce the oil consumption and dependency on oil import in response to the Oil Embargo in the 1970s. The health benefit was not thoroughly analyzed in policy analyses of CAFE standards. I hypothesize that better automobile fuel economy results in less mobile source air pollutants such as fine Particulate Matters (PM2.5), Carbon Monoxide (CO), and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), and hence improves air quality, which in turn reduces air pollutant related diseases such as asthma. Thus, CAFE standards have health benefits because CAFE standards increase the on-road vehicle fleet fuel economy. I seek empirical evidence of the health effects of automobile fuel economy through the improvement of air quality. Using vehicle registration and fuel consumption data, air pollutant data, health survey data, and other relevant data in the United States, I apply statistical mediation analysis techniques to assess the variation of asthma with respect to the changes of automobile fuel economy over time through the air pollutants mechanism. The empirical analysis results, under certain assumptions and with some limitation due to the data, support my key hypotheses: 1) there is a clear negative correlation between the automobile fuel economy and mobile source air pollutants over time; 2) there is a negative correlation between the fuel economy and asthma prevalence through the air pollutants mechanism; 3) empirical evidence supports that the air pollutants are the mediators through which automobile fuel economy affects health. This dissertation provides the empirical evidence of the health effects of automobile fuel economy improvement through improvements in air quality. It contributes to the literature and knowledge to the research community in two aspects: first, by identifying the health benefits of automobile fuel economy and an additional support to tighten the automobile fuel economy standards; second, by applying statistical mediation methods in econometric analysis.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Air Pollutants, Asthma, Automobile, Fuel Economy, Fuel Economy Standards, Health Effects
Automobiles $x Fuel consumption $x Health aspects
Motor vehicles $x Fuel consumption $x Health aspects
Automobiles $x Motors $x Exhaust gas $x Health aspects
Motor vehicles $x Motors $x Exhaust gas $x Health aspects
Automobiles $x Air quality
Air $x Pollution

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