Air pollution, human capital and corporate social responsibility performance: evidence from China

Jia Liu, Xuefeng Pan, Yuanyu Qu, Chenyu Wang, Weixing Wu

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This study examines the impact of air pollution on a firm’s adherence to the principles of corporate social responsibility (CSR), and the role of human capital in this relationship. Basing our analysis on a sample of listed companies in China between 2014 and 2017, we employ regression discontinuity design (RDD) and the two-stage instrumental variable method (IV-2SLS) in determining that air pollution has a significant, negative impact on CSRperformance. This negative relationship is more pronounced in companies that are subject to mandatory CSR disclosure requirements, compared to those required to make only voluntary disclosures. In addition, further analysis demonstrates that executives with an overseas background, or with a working experience of finance, choose to work in cities with superior air quality, enhancing their companies’ CSR credentials. Moreover, the increase in the total labor force in these cities, as a result of better air quality, motivates local companies to improve their CSR performance to retain and attract higher caliber employees. Our study provides original evidence that air pollution generates negative economic externalities, and can alter firm behavior, through the medium of human capital.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-483
Number of pages17
JournalApplied Economics
Issue number4
Early online date16 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2021


  • air pollution
  • corporate social responsibility
  • executives
  • labor force


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