MPIDR Working Paper

Can a low emission zone improve academic performance? Evidence from a natural experiment in the city of Madrid

Valdés, M. T., C. Espadafor, M., Conte Keivabu, R.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2023-048, 35 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (November 2023)
Revised November 2023
Open Access


-In late 2018, the government of Madrid instituted a low emission zone (LEZ) in the central district of the city, aiming primarily to alleviate traffic-related emissions and enhance air quality. Extensive research has documented the adverse effects of air pollution on academic performance. Consequently, the success of Madrid’s LEZ in reducing traffic-related emissions could potentially translate into improved performance among students schooled in the designated area. Through a difference-in-differences design, we demonstrate the policy's effectiveness in improving air quality during the four years following its implementation. Subsequently, we show a noteworthy increase of 0.17 standard deviations in the average EvAU scores (high-stakes examinations for university admittance) of high schools within the LEZ, a crucial advantage for gaining entry into the most competitive university programs. Importantly, our findings reveal positive spillover effects in the surroundings of the LEZ area and a larger effect the longer and earlier the exposure to cleaner air. In sum, our study offers compelling empirical evidence of the beneficial educational impacts resulting from the implementation of a low emission zone successful in improving air quality.  

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.