Sustainable Development and Population: Making the Most of Spatial Data for Demographic Studies
This pilot study examines the health effects of traditional sugarcane harvesting techniques in Brazil. Although ethanol from sugarcane is increasingly seen as a viable, renewable energy source that can help meet the rising global energy demand, the traditional farming practice of pre-harvest field burning elevates the air pollution levels in producing regions and negatively effects infant health. Analysis from this study quantifies the consequences for infants exposed to this field fire smoke before and after birth.
The study combines satellite imagery data with administrative and survey data to measure economic development and the subsequent environmental challenges to the population and demographic processes—including fertility, mortality, birth outcomes, human capital accumulation and migration flows. Data from the Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) of NASA’s Earth Observing System Data and Information System is used to track the use of fires in agricultural activities in Brazil. These are combined with weather data from geographically disperse weather stations and administrative data—birth outcomes, death records, hospitalizations, and school performance—to examine the impact of modernizing agricultural production (as well its expansion) on various dimensions of welfare.