Working Paper

How Should the World Bank Estimate Air Pollution Damages?

Sep 11, 2014 | Maureen L. Cropper, Shefali Khanna


We evaluate the approach currently used by the World Bank to measure exposure to outdoor air pollution and associated economic costs, as reported in the World Development Indicators database. We recommend that current exposure estimates, based on an econometric model, be replaced by estimates used in computing the Global Burden of Disease (GBD). The GBD combines satellite data with chemical transport models to provide global estimates of fine particle exposure. We recommend that the World Bank also use estimates of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost due to outdoor air pollution produced by the GBD. DALYs should continue to be monetized using the value of a statistical life year, which is currently transferred from a US value of a statistical life (VSL) using an income elasticity of one. Going forward, it would be desirable to allow the income elasticity of the VSL to vary with income and to revisit the choice of baseline VSL.