eric zou
The Causes and Consequences of Incomplete Environmental Monitoring

The research of Assistant Professor Eric Zou began with the observation that regulatory monitoring of pollution is often spatially sparse, temporally intermittent, or even nonexistent in developing-country settings. In a pair of papers titled "Unwatched Pollution: The Effect of Intermittent Monitoring on Air Quality" and "What's Missing in Environmental (Self-)Monitoring: Evidence from Strategic Shutdown of Pollution Monitors," Zou and his co-authors studied the strategic interaction between pollution monitoring and air quality. 

These two papers demonstrate that intermittency in regulatory monitoring causally affects pollution outcomes and vice versa -- high pollution can induce selective monitoring. The evidence highlights a general principle-agent challenge of environmental federalism: local agencies are in charge of self-monitoring and enforcing federal environmental standards. 

At the same time, these local agencies bear the regulatory penalties if their own data suggest that violations occurred. In a third paper titled "From Fog to Smog: The Value of Pollution Information," Zou and his co-authors found that pollution information disclosure triggered a dramatic change in public awareness of pollution issues, which in turn translated to increased avoidance behavior among members of the public and improved health. 

This paper is among the first to document social, behavioral, and health changes when a highly polluted country without publicly available pollution information transitions to a new regime that makes it possible to openly discuss pollution issues and to find and use pollution information in real time.