The possibility that workers could be adversely affected by environmental policies imposed on heavily regulated industries has led to claims of a "jobs versus the environment" trade-off by both business and labor leaders. The present research examines this claim at the industry level for four heavily polluting industries: pulp and paper mills, plastic manufacturers, petroleum refiners, and iron and steel mills. By focusing on labor effects across an entire industry, we construct a measure relevant to the concerns of key stakeholders, such as labor unions and trade groups. We decompose the link between environmental regulation and employment into three distinct components: factor shifts to more or less labor intensity, changes in total expenditures, and changes in the quantity of output demanded. We use detailed plant-level data to estimate the key parameters describing factor shifts and changes in total expenditures. We then use aggregate time-series data on industry supply shocks and output responses to estimate the demand effect. We find that increased environmental spending generally does not cause a significant change in industry-level employment. Our average across all four industries is a net gain of 1.5 jobs per $1 million in additional environmental spending, with a standard error of 2.2 jobs—an insignificant effect. In the plastics and petroleum sectors, however, there are small but significantly positive effects: 6.9 and 2.2 jobs, respectively, per $1 million in additional expenditures. These effects can be linked to favorable factor shifts—environmental spending is more labor intensive than ordinary production—and relatively inelastic estimated demand.
Press Release — Jul 9, 2019
New Episode of Resources Radio on Economics and Environmental Policy, with Robert Stavins
In this podcast, Robert Stavins explains how economics can be used to create effective policies.
Press Release — Feb 12, 2019
From Resources Radio: Understanding Climate Models, with Massimo Tavoni of EIEE
Resources Radio: Energy Inefficiency, with RFF's Joshua Blonz
Host Daniel Raimi and Joshua Blonz, a postdoctoral fellow at RFF, talk about his recent research on an energy efficiency program in California, the...