Quarterly Journal Review

Quarterly Journal Review

It’s been a while since I’ve shared quarterly journal reviews! In this post I review interesting journal articles from the first three quarters of 2021.

  1. Banerjee, P., Pal, R., Wossink, A., & Asher, J. (2021). Heterogeneity in Farmers’ Social Preferences and the Design of Green Payment Schemes. Environmental and Resource Economics, 78(2), 201–226. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10640-020-00529-7

The first article to catch my attention was Banerjee et al. on the design of green payment schemes.  The article discusses “green payment schemes,” or payment programs designed to give an incentive for farmers to produce “public goods” – to provide more conservation areas, for example, or to practice no-till farming methods to reduce soil erosion. However, the authors point out that typical green payment schemes ignore differences among farmers, and assume that all farmers are solely motivated by profit. Banjeree et al develop a model that takes into account farmers’ different motivations, and the existence of a social norm for environmental preservation. They conclude that coupling a monetary payment with a “social award” would entice more farmers to take advantage of green payment schemes. 

  1. Corona, J., Doley, T., Griffiths, C., Massey, M., Moore, C., Muela, S., Rashleigh, B., Wheeler, W., Whitlock, S. D., & Hewitt, J. (2020). An Integrated Assessment Model for Valuing Water Quality Changes in the United States. Land Economics, 96(4), 478–492. https://doi.org/10.3368/wple.96.4.478

I was also fascinated by an article written by several economists (plus a biologist and an engineer) at the US Environmental Protection Agency. It discusses an integrated assessment model (IAM) to measure the effects of policies designed to improve water quality. (IAMs have been used most popularly to look at the effects of climate change mitigation policy on economic outcomes.) For an economist like me, this model could potentially fill a huge hole. We may know the pathway from an environmental policy to water quality, and we may know some information about the connection between improved water quality to social and economic benefits, but an IAM links the two, making cost-benefit analyses easier to perform and understand. As the authors explain, the modeling platform is designed to quantify the economic benefits of water quality improvements to the nation’s freshwater rivers and streams” (page 479). After describing the model, they apply it to a case study in the mid-western United States. Although the model is still being developed, they hope to make an open source version of it available in the near future. 

  1. Dunning, K. H. (2020). Building resilience to natural hazards through coastal governance: a case study of Hurricane Harvey recovery in Gulf of Mexico communities. Ecological Economics, 12.

Another article that speaks directly to one of the projects that we are working on now is this article, which asks, “how [do] institutions for coastal governance respond to hazards, and how do those responses relate to resilience of human and natural systems?” Essentially, the author’s key takeaway is that higher levels of government take longer than is necessary to respond to disasters. Because of this, she recommends the formation of “sub-national” collaborations, including charity and non-profit groups. While coordination among such groups can be challenging, planning and assigning roles before a disaster strikes can save crucial time, money, and resources.   

  1. Da Rocha, J. M., García-Cutrín, J., Gutiérrez, M.-J., Prellezo, R., & Sanchez, E. (2021). Dynamic Integrated Model for Assessing Fisheries: Discard Bans as an Implicit Value-Added Tax. Environmental and Resource Economics, 80(1), 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10640-021-00576-8

Switching gears a little to another area that I am interested in and that is relevant to my adopted home state of Maine is this article on banning “discards” in commercial fishing. The “bycatch” issue in commercial fishing has always been a problem: as fishermen are focused on catching high value fish, any fish they catch “incidentally” may be discarded as bycatch. Most of the time, that bycatch does not survive. Several countries have implemented discard bans in various forms. This article examines discard bans using an integrated assessment model (see above). They find that discard bans not only improve the sustainability of a fishery, but can also increase economic welfare in the long run. 

  1. Carlsson, F., Gravert, C., Johansson-Stenma, O., and Kurz, V. 2021. “The Use of Green Nudges as an Environmental Policy Instrument,” Review of Environmental Economics and Policy 15:(2). https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/715524

If you follow behavioral economics at all, you’ll recognize the term “nudge.” A “nudge” in terms of economics is defined as “a change in the [decision-making] environment that influences people’s behavior without prohibiting any choices or significantly changing the economic incentives”.* Economics is all about incentives – subsidizing behavior we feel is important or beneficial to society, while taxing those behaviors we feel are harmful to society. A nudge is a bit different – the idea here is that policy makers can change people’s decisions by simply changing the environment within which they make those decisions. Probably the most famous example is that of contributions to retirement accounts, whereby businesses discovered that people contributed more to their retirement accounts if they had to “opt out” (i.e., actively choose not to participate) than when they had to “opt in” (i.e., actively choose to participate. According to standard economic theory, that context should not matter to an individual’s decision-making process. But evidently it does. 

The authors divide green nudges into pure green nudges, and moral green nudges. A pure green nudge simply makes it easier for an individual to choose a more environmentally-friendly option (for example, making the “green energy choice” the default rather than an alternative, or, making the environmentally friendly options more prominent on a menu or in a grocery store). A moral nudge rewards individuals for “doing the right thing” by intentionally triggering a psychological response such as pride or shame. Examples of moral nudges might be moral suasion, social comparisons, or goal setting and commitment. 

Research that compares the effectiveness of green nudges versus more conventional economic policy instruments is still in its early stages, but it is a fascinating area of study. 

* Thaler, R., and C. Sunstein. 2009. Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. New York: Penguin.

  1. Gawith, D., Hodge, I., Morgan, F., & Daigneault, A. (2020). Climate change costs more than we think because people adapt less than we assume. Ecological Economics, 173. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2020.106636

Finally, I was also intrigued by this article, as rbouvier consulting is currently working on a project estimating the economic costs of sea level rise in a county in southern Maine. This article discusses how the current estimates of the cost of climate change may actually be too low, because those costs assume that people will adapt to climate change (for example, planting different crops, changing occupations, or moving locations) if they can. However, literature in behavioral economics (see article above) points out that individuals are much less pliable in their behaviors than traditional economists would like to believe. The model and empirical is rather technical and probably inaccessible to those not familiar with sophisticated environmental and economic modeling. The basic idea though, is simple: because of barriers to behavioral change, individuals may not adapt to climate change as much as economic models assume, and therefore climate change may be even more damaging to the economy than previously thought.     

~ Rachel Bouvier

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