Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2022

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School




Program or Major

Analytical Economics

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

Bradley Herring


This study analyzes the health impacts of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5), a common anthropogenic pollutant resulting from vehicles, manufacturing, and wood burning. PM2.5 is an emission of particular concern given its small size of roughly 2.5 micrometers, allowing it to stay in the atmosphere for up to 10 days and penetrate the deepest area of the lungs, the alveoli. This penetration can lead to adverse respiratory and cardiovascular health outcomes, and ultimately lead to an increased mortality rate. This study utilizes data from 1,885 counties in the U.S. between 2001 and 2017, and included health outcome, PM2.5 , and demographic data. The results from two-way fixed effects regression models show that an increase in PM2.5 does lead to an increase in the respiratory mortality rate, and that this effect is largely seen in counties with a below average poverty rate and an above average minority population. These results suggest that racial and economic inequalities exist for both healthcare access and proximity to pollution sources for lower income and diverse counties underlining the need for policies to address this public health concern.