Quantifying COVID-19’s Silver Lining: Avoided Deaths from Air Quality Improvements in Bogotá

Peer Reviewed
1 January 2023

Allen Blackman, Jorge A. Bonilla, Laura Villalobos


In cities around the world, COVID-19 lockdowns have significantly improved outdoor air quality. Even if only temporary, these improvements could have longer-lasting effects by making chronic air pollution more salient and boosting political pressure for change. To that end, it is important to develop objective estimates of both the air quality improvements associated with lockdowns and the benefits they generate. We use panel data econometric models to estimate the effect of Bogotá’s 16-month lockdown on PM2.5 and NO2 pollution, epidemiological models to simulate the effect of reductions in these pollutants on long- and short-term mortality, and benefit transfer methods to value the avoided mortality. We find that on average, Bogotá’s lockdown cut PM2.5 pollution by 15% and NO2 pollution by 21%. However, the magnitude of these effects varied considerably over time and across the city's neighborhoods. Equivalent permanent reductions in these pollutants would reduce long-term premature deaths from air pollution by 23% each year, a benefit valued at $1 billion annually. Finally, we estimate that if they occurred ceteris paribus, the temporary reductions in pollutant concentrations in 2020–2021 due to Bogotá’s lockdown would have cut short-term deaths from air pollution by 19%, a benefit valued at $244 million.

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Sustainable Development Goals
Publication reference
Blackman, A., Bonilla, J. A., & Villalobos, L. (2023). Quantifying COVID-19’s silver lining: Avoided deaths from air quality improvements in Bogotá. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 117, 102749. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeem.2022.102749

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Publication | 27 January 2022