Boris Johnson kills children
Boris Johnson is threatening to kill some children and worsen the educational outcomes of many more.The reason for this is straightforward. He intends to remove the western extension zone of the congestion charge, and delay phase three of the low emission zone, which would charge polluting vans more for entering London. The effects of these will be to increase congestion and emissions of carbon and nitrogen oxide.Such emissions, however, are quite strongly associated with pre-natal health, as a new paper by Janet Currie and Reed Walker demonstrate. They studied the impact of the introduction of E-Z Pass in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. This system allows cars to travel onto toll roads without stopping to pay manually. They therefore greatly reduce congestion and emissions around the toll plazas.Currie and Walker then compared the health of babies born within 2km of the plazas before and after the introduction of E-Z Pass to that of babies born near a highway but further away from the plazas; this is a difference in differences method. And they found that the introduction of E-Z Pass was associated with big reductions in both premature births and the incidence of low birth weight. “Policies intended to curb traffic congestion can have significant health benefits” they conclude.But Johnson is refusing to implement such policies.What’s this got to do with childhood death and education? Plenty. There’s evidence that premature babies are more likely to die in childhood, and that children with low birth weight are more likely to have low intelligence and do badly at school.In this sense, Johnson is jeopardizing the lives and education of London’s children.It’s lucky for him that long-term statistical tendencies don’t carry much weight.