Bipartite Interference and Air Pollution Transport: Estimating Health Effects of Power Plant Interventions

12/09/2020
by   Corwin Zigler, et al.
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Evaluating air quality interventions is confronted with the challenge of interference since interventions at a particular pollution source likely impact air quality and health at distant locations and air quality and health at any given location are likely impacted by interventions at many sources. The structure of interference in this context is dictated by complex atmospheric processes governing how pollution emitted from a particular source is transformed and transported across space, and can be cast with a bipartite structure reflecting the two distinct types of units: 1) interventional units on which treatments are applied or withheld to change pollution emissions; and 2) outcome units on which outcomes of primary interest are measured. We propose new estimands for bipartite causal inference with interference that construe two components of treatment: a "key-associated" (or "individual") treatment and an "upwind" (or "neighborhood") treatment. Estimation is carried out using a semi-parametric adjustment approach based on joint propensity scores. A reduced-complexity atmospheric model is deployed to characterize the structure of the interference network by modeling the movement of air parcels through time and space. The new methods are deployed to evaluate the effectiveness of installing flue-gas desulfurization scrubbers on 472 coal-burning power plants (the interventional units) in reducing Medicare hospitalizations among 22,603,597 Medicare beneficiaries residing across 23,675 ZIP codes in the United States (the outcome units).

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