Department or Program

Environmental Studies


In California, the threat of wildfires, specifically the threat from the pollutant PM2.5 found in 90% of wildfire smoke, is growing as climate change continues to increase the severity and frequency of wildfires (Wade, 2023). Educational outcomes such as test scores and cognitive function tests have been negatively linked to pollution exposure while little to no research exists on the link between pollution from wildfires and educational attainment. This thesis uses data from the CDC, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, California Department of Education, and the USDA to construct a sample of counties in California from 2014-2020. I employ a two-way fixed effects model to estimate the effect of contemporary, lagged, and cumulative PM2.5 on the college going rate in California. My findings indicate a significant negative effect of two-year lagged and cumulative PM2.5 on present educational attainment and no significant relationship between present PM2.5 exposure and educational attainment. These results suggest that activities earlier on in high school such as class selection, the decision to take a college entrance exam, and academic performance may suffer as a result of PM2.5 exposure and therefore reduce educational attainment.

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

First Advisor

Austin Smith

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file


Available to Bates community via local IP address or Bates login.