Study: Kids Do Worse in Schools Near Traffic

Moving to a school with higher levels of traffic pollution could impact students' academic performance, according to new research.

1 minute read

February 10, 2019, 11:00 AM PST

By Elana Eden


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A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that when students switch to schools with higher levels of traffic pollution, they begin to experience lower test scores, more behavioral problems, and increased absences.

Reporting on the findings, CityLab's Nicole Javorsky notes that "more than 6 million children attend public school within 250 meters (820 feet) of a major roadway, and almost 20 percent of schools that opened in the United States during the 2014–2015 school year were located near a busy road."

Many of the public health impacts of air pollution, from diabetes to death, are well documented. In this study, researchers focused on kids in Florida public schools located within 0.4 miles of major highways. They looked at how students’ performance in school changed after moving from a less polluted school—that is, a school upwind of a highway—to a more polluted school (downwind of a highway) and vice versa. The findings: Students who transitioned to a more polluted school—even in the same zip code—began experiencing lower test scores, more behavioral problems, and more absences than students who transitioned to a less polluted school.

The researchers hope that policymakers and school districts will consider the findings when siting new schools.

Monday, February 4, 2019 in CityLab

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