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How Car Pollution Hurts Kids’ Performance in School

When students switch to schools downwind of major roads, their test scores fall and their absences increase, according to new research.
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John Locher/AP

New research indicates that when students switch to schools with higher levels of traffic pollution, they tend to experience declines in test scores, more behavioral incidents, and more absences. That’s according to a National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) working paper issued in January.

The paper brings more evidence to the body of research showing that air pollution harms cognitive performance and poses a major threat to health worldwide. Claudia Persico, one of the working paper’s authors and an assistant professor in American University’s School of Public Affairs, noted to CityLab that “while there is a literature on how pollution affects prenatal and birth outcomes, there isn’t a lot of research on how typical levels of pollution affect kids who are already born.”