Spatial and temporal disparities in air pollution exposure at Italian schools
Genus, 79:27, 1–27 (2023)
Air pollution poses major threats to children’s health and learning, making exposure at school particularly critical. However, some children are more exposed than others, especially depending on the socioeconomic status of their school’s neighbourhood. In this study, we explore how exposure to air pollution varies across schools, over time and by the socioeconomic characteristics of the neighbourhood using data on approximately 23 thousand schools in Italy connected with estimates on Particulate Matter 2.5 measured in µg/m3 at a 1 × 1 km resolution from 2002 to 2018 provided by the Atmospheric Composition Analysis Group (ACAG). Moreover, we create an indicator of school socioeconomic status (SES) using fine-grained information on the real estate value made available by the Italian Observatory of Real Estate Value. Results highlight three main findings. First, air quality at the location of the schools improved over time by about 35%. Secondly, SES shows an inverted U-curve with PM2.5 suggesting schools in middle SES neighbourhoods to be exposed to the highest levels of pollution. Thirdly, SES does not show a substantive association with a decrease in air pollution over time. In conclusion, air quality has improved over time in Italy, but schools still do not comply with the World Health Organization (WHO) standards and middle SES neighbourhoods remain the most exposed to air pollution.