The relationship between monthly air pollution and violent crime across the United States

Jesse Burkhardt, Jude Bayham, Ander Wilson, Jesse D. Berman, Katelyn O'Dell, Bonne Ford, Emily V. Fischer, Jeffrey R. Pierce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Recent evidence suggests a relationship between short-term pollution exposure and crime, with a particular emphasis on aggressive behavior. However, the previous analyses are limited in geographic scope. In this paper, we estimate the effect of fine particulate air pollution (PM (Formula presented.)) exposure on crime across 99% of counties in the contiguous United States. We combine monthly data on crime, PM (Formula presented.), and satellite-derived smoke plumes for a ten-year period. We use adjusted satellite-based landscape fire smoke plume data as an instrument for overall changes in (Formula presented.). Our findings are consistent with previous research and suggest that increases in (Formula presented.) raise violent crime rates, and specifically assaults. Our results indicate the effect is relatively homogeneous across the U.S. However, we find the effect is positively correlated with county median age, suggesting older populations are more susceptible to changes in air pollution. Our results indicate a need for more research on the physiological and social mechanisms behind the measured effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-205
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Environmental Economics and Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Journal of Environmental Economics and Policy Ltd.


  • Crime
  • air pollution
  • fire smoke


Dive into the research topics of 'The relationship between monthly air pollution and violent crime across the United States'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this