Increasing income increases deforestation in Mexico

Over a year ago, I pointed readers to this paper after seeing it at WCERE and thinking it was important, so I'm happy to hear that its now forthcoming in ReStat.  It is also is also an excellent example of individuals increasing their resource consumption, when they becoming richer, by increasing their trophic level (described two posts ago).  The paper finds that when households receive cash transfers, they consume more meat, which requires more rangeland, which induces additional deforestation.

Jennifer Alix-Garcia, Craig McIntosh, Jarrod R. Welch, Katharine R. E. Sims 

Abstract: We study the consequences of poverty alleviation programs for environmental degradation. We exploit the community-level eligibility discontinuity for a conditional cash transfer program in Mexico to identify the impacts of income increases on deforestation, and use the program’s initial randomized rollout to explore household responses. We find that additional income raises consumption of land-intensive goods and increases deforestation. The observed production response and deforestation increase are larger in communities with poor road infrastructure. This suggests that better access to markets disperses environmental harm and that the full effects of poverty alleviation can be observed only where poor infrastructure localizes them.

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