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Behavioral Spillovers from Targeted Incentives: losses from excluded individuals can counter gains from those selected

Francisco Alpizar, Anna Norden, Alexander Pfaff, Juan Robalino
Duke Environmental & Energy Economics Working Paper Series

PDF link iconIncentives conditioned on socially desired acts such as donating blood, departing conflict or mitigating climate change have increased in popularity. Many incentives are targeted, excluding some of the potential participants based upon characteristics or prior actions. We hypothesize that pro-sociality is reduced by exclusion, in of itself (i.e., fixing prices and income), and that the rationale for exclusion influences such ‘behavioral spillovers’. To test this, we use a laboratory experiment to study the effects of a subsidy to donations when participants are fully informed about why they are selected, or not, for the subsidy. We study the effects of introducing different selection rules upon changes in donations. Selecting for the subsidy those who initially acted less pro-social (i.e., gave little to start) increased donations, while random subsidies and rewarding greater pro-sociality did not. Yet a selection rule which targets lower prior pro-sociality also intentionally excludes the people who donated more initially, and only that rule reduced donations by the excluded. This shows a tradeoff between losses from excluded participants and gains from selected.


Unintended Effects of Targeting an Environmental Rebate

Francisco Alpizar, Anna Norden, Alexander Pfaff, Juan Robalino
Environmental and Resource Economics (accepted)

PDF link iconWhen designing schemes such as conditional cash transfers or payments for ecosystem services, the choice of whom to select and whom to exclude is critical. We incentivize and measure actual contributions to an environmental public good to ascertain whether being excluded from a rebate can affect contributions and, if so, whether the rationale for exclusion influences such effects.  Treatments, i.e., three rules that determine who is selected and excluded, are randomly assigned. Two of the rules base exclusion on subjects’ initial contributions. The third is based upon location and the rationales are always explained. The rule that targets the rebate to low initial contributors, who have more potential to raise contributions, is the only rule that raised contributions by those selected. Yet by design, that same rule excludes the subjects who contributed the most initially. They respond by reducing their contributions even though their income and prices are unchanged.

Regional Interdependence and Forest “Transitions”: substitute deforestation limits the relevance of local reversals

Alexander Pfaff, Robert Walker
Land Use Policy 2010 27:119–129

PDF link iconUsing case studies and concepts we suggest that constraints upon aggregate or global forest transition are significantly more severe than those upon local forest reversals. The basic reason is that one region’s reversal can be facilitated by other regions that supply resources and goods, reducing the demands upon the region where forests rise. Many past forest reversals involve such interdependence. For ‘facilitating regions’ also to rise in forest requires other changes, since they will not be receiving such help. We start by discussing forest-transitions analysis within the context of Environmental Kuznets Curves (EKCs), for a useful typology of possible shifts underlying transitions. We then consider the historical Northeast US where a regional reversal was dramatic and impressive. Yet this depended upon agricultural price shocks, due to the Midwest US supplying food, and also upon the availability of timber from other US regions. Next we consider deforestation in Amazônia, whose history (like the Northeast US) suggests a potential local role for urbanization, i.e. spatial concentration of population. Yet inter-regional issues again are crucial. For cattle and soy, expansion of global demands may give to Amazonia a role more like the Midwest than the Northeast US. In addition, across-region interdependencies will help determine where reversal and facilitation occur. Finally we discuss the constraints upon very broad forest transition.