This study contributes to the emerging literature on the effect of air pollution on short-run productivity, particularly on the performance of athletes engaging in outdoor sports. An emerging literature finds a sizable, negative effect of air pollution on short-run labor productivity. This study contributes to this literature by estimating the causal effect of air pollution on marathon runners’ using a sample of more than 0.3 million runners in 37 cities and 56 race events in China in 2014 and 2015. The causal identification relies mainly on the exogeneity of air quality on the race day because runners are required to register for a race a few months in advance and air quality on the race day can be considered random.
Findings have a few important implications for professional athletes who engage in outdoor sports, for city governments organizing outdoor mega events, and for the growing running industry. The estimates show that the negative effect of air pollution on top runners is also sizable: a top 10 full-marathon runner will need 4.8 more minutes to finish the race if she or he were to run the 2014 Beijing Marathon compared with running on a day with average air quality in China. The findings remind city governments that the negative effect of air pollution on the health and performance of participants should be taken into account when organizing outdoor mega events. For example, on heavily polluted days, if weather conditions permit, a city government may use cloud seeding to increase rainfall to wash out part of the pollutants. The findings are also informative for professional athletes who compete for awards in outdoor sports games such as football, running, and biking and for workers whose jobs require intensive physical activities and long exposure to ambient air pollution.
Using a sample of more than 0.3 million marathon runners of 56 race events in China in 2014 and 2015, we estimate the air pollution elasticity of finish time to be 0.041. Our causal identification comes from the exogeneity of air pollution on the race day because runners are required to register for a race a few months in advance and we control for confounding factors. Including individual fixed effects also provides consistent evidence. Our study contributes to the emerging literature on the effect of air pollution on short-run productivity, particularly on the performance of athletes engaging in outdoor sports.
Running With a Mask? The Effect of Air Pollution on Marathon Runners’ Performance
Mengmeng Guo, Shihe Fu
First Published January 6, 2019 Research Article
Journal of Sports Economics