Sociodemographic Disparities in Ambient Particulate Matter Exposure in Austria

We assess to what extent municipalities with socioeconomically vulnerable populations are disproportionately exposed to particulate matter in Austria. Although air quality in Austria has improved over the last decades, thresholds for safe air quality are still exceeded in large parts of the country and disparities both across and within Austrian regions exist. Particulate matter accounts for the largest environmental health damages of all ambient air pollutants. We use municipality level data on particulate matter exposure from the European Environmental Agency and sociodemographic data from Statistics Austria for 2015. We find that foreign citizens are disproportionately exposed to higher levels of particulate matter in Austria. This finding is robust with regards to different controls, regional fixed effects, and different particulate matter exposure indicators. Exposure disparities by citizenship are stronger in urban areas, where the large majority of foreign citizens live. We also find that citizens with low educational attainment are exposed to higher levels of particulate matter. The latter disparities are stronger in rural areas, where the majority of people with low educational attainment live. The relationship between income and air pollution follows an inverted U-shape in most specifications. High turning points and wide Fieller confidence intervals, however, suggest that the relationship is positive for most of the distribution and insignificant or negative for very high incomes. Overall, we find evidence that socioeconomically vulnerable municipalities are exposed to higher levels of particulate matter.