Clay

Karen Clay

Professor of Economics and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University
Chapter Member: Central Pennsylvania SSN
Areas of Expertise:

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About Karen

Clay's research focuses on the health effects of air pollution and climate change. Much of her work on air pollution intersects with energy. For example, Clay's research examines pollution arising from the use of coal to generate electricity and the use of pipelines and railroads to move crude oil to refineries. Clay has given talks or participated in panels for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Heinz College, the Carnegie Mellon Scott Institute in Pittsburgh and in Washington DC. 

In the News

Karen Clay's research on effect of air pollution on deaths in 1918 flu pandemic discussed by Jamie Smith Hopkins, "Your City’s Air Pollution Could Make COVID-19 Even More Dangerous," Mother Jones, March 27, 2020.
Karen Clay quoted on impact of pandemics on recessions by Steve Matthews, "Recession Panel Could Make Official US Call Prior to Election" The Detroit News, March 16, 2020.
Karen Clay quoted on an NBER-dated recession due to health-care crisis by Steve Matthews, "Recession Panel could Make Official US Call Prior to Election" The Detroit News, March 16, 2020.
"Pittsburgh: Think Twice About Allowing More Rail Traffic to Roll Through the City," Karen Clay (with Akshaya Jha, Nick Muller, and Randall Walsh), Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 29, 2018.
Karen Clay's research on lead and fertility discussed by Oladapo Ashiru, "Effects of Lead on Reproductive Functions," Punch, June 27, 2018.
Guest to discuss how energy technologies can change the price of natural gas around the world on WESA, Pittsburgh's NPR News Station, Karen Clay, October 1, 2015.
Guest to discuss how our commercial buildings can affect energy consumption on WESA, Pittsburgh's NPR News Station, Karen Clay, September 24, 2015.
Guest to discuss how competitive renewable energy sources are with fossil fuels on WESA, Pittsburgh's NPR News Station, Karen Clay, September 17, 2015.
Guest to discuss tax policy and energy technology interaction on WESA, Pittsburgh's NPR News Station, Karen Clay, September 10, 2015.

Publications

"Toxic Truth: Lead and Fertility," (with Edson Severnini and Margarita Portnykh), The National Bureau of Economic Research, May 2018.

Examines the impact of lead exposure on a critical human function with societal implications – fertility. Uses two sets of instruments: i) the interaction of the timing of implementation of Clean Air Act regulations and the 1944 Interstate Highway System Plan for the panel data and ii) the 1944 Interstate Highway System Plan for the cross sectional data. Finds that reductions in airborne lead between 1978 and 1988 increased fertility rates and that higher lead in topsoil decreased fertility rates in the 2000s.

"The Social Cost from Moving Crude Oil by Pipelines and Railroads: Evidence from the Bakken," (with Akshaya Jha, Nick Muller, and Randy Walsh), National Bureau of Economic Research , September 1, 2017.

Shows that air pollution and spill and accident costs associated with moving crude oil are much higher (6.7x) for rail and for pipeline and that air pollution costs are much larger (9x) than spill and accident costs. Finds that the majority of the air pollution costs are from criteria pollutants and not carbon dioxide.

"Adapting to Climate Change: Evidence from Long-Run Changes in the Temperature-Mortality Relationship in the 20th Century United States" (with Alan Barreca, Olivier Deschenes, Michael Greenstone, and Joseph Shapiro). Journal of Political Economy 124, no. 1 (2016).

Documents mortality in the United States for temperatures over 80F fell 70% over the twentieth century and almost all of the decline occurred after 1960. Shows the decline is almost entirely explained by the expansion of air conditioning.

"Canary in a Coal Mine: Impact of Mid-20th Century Air Pollution on Infant Mortality and Property Values," (with Joshua Lewis and Edson Severnini), National Bureau of Economic Research , April 1, 2016.

Highlights the extent of mid-twentieth century air pollution in the United States and provides estimates of health impacts of increased coal-fired electricity generation on infant mortality. Shows tradeoffs in health effects of increased coal-fired electricity generation for infants and in property values across locations with high and low levels of access to electricity.

"Convergence in Adaptation to Climate Change: Evidence from High Temperatures and Mortality, 1900-2004" (with Alan Barreca, Olivier Deschenes, Michael Greenstone, and Joseph Shapiro). American Economic Review, Paper and Proceedings 105, no. 5 (2015): 247-251.

Shows the impact of extreme heat on mortality is smaller in states that more frequently experience extreme heat and that the difference in the heat-mortality relationship between hot and cold states declined over 1900-2004 but had not disappeared as of 2004. 

"Adapting to Climate Change: Evidence from Long-Run Changes in the Temperature-Mortality Relationship in the 20th Century United States," (with Alan Barreca, Olivier Deschenes, Michael Greenstone, and Joseph Shapiro), National Bureau of Economic Research , January 1, 2013.

Documents mortality in the United States for temperatures over 80F fell over 70% over the twentieth century and almost all of the decline  occurred after 1960. Shows the decline is almost entirely explained by the expansion of air conditioning.  

"Lead and Mortality," (with Werner Troesken and Michael Haines), National Bureau of Economic Research , July 1, 2014.

Presents evidence that cities with lead drinking water pipes had higher infant mortality in the early 20th century and that cities with lead pipes and more acidic water, which is associated with greater leaching of lead, had higher infant mortality than cities with lead pipes and less acidic water.