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Category: Experiments

No crowding out among those terminated from an ongoing PES program in Colombia

Esther Blanco, Lina Moros, Alexander Pfaff, Ivo Steimanis, Maria Alejandra Velez, Bjorn Vollan
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 120 (2023)

This paper presents novel evidence of no crowding out, of either motivations or donations, among those terminated from an ongoing program of payments for ecosystem services (PES) in Colombia. PES programs have risen in number. However, claims about perverse impacts after programs end could inhibit their growth. PES end for different reasons (planned duration, budget reduction, issues in implementation) and in different ways (some participants or all). An expressed concern for PES is that receiving payments lowers conservation, after PES end, if participants’ intrinsic motivations for conservation are ‘crowded out’ by financial incentives. We test for crowding out by an ongoing program in which some but not all contracts were terminated. We see no evidence of crowding out, since neither the motivations nor the donations for the terminated farmers are significantly different than for non-PES land owners (and this is robust to matching on levels of assets, residence on farm past donation behavior, main economic activity, and participation in collective activities). Our results add evidence from an actual PES to literature questioning the relevance, importance and even sign of crowding effects.


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Temporary PES do not crowd out and may crowd in lab-in-the-field forest conservation in Colombia

Lina Moros, Maria Alejandra Velez, Daniela Quintero, Danny Tobin, Alexander Pfaff
Ecological Economics 204 (2023)

Payments for ecosystem services (PES) programs exist globally and at times shift behaviors. Unlike protected areas, PES compensate land users, raising local acceptance of conservation. Yet some worry that if payments are temporary, as is often the case, conservation behaviors can be reduced by PES, ‘crowded out’ to be lower after PES than if no PES had existed. We conducted lab-in-the-field experiments in Colombia, where PES policies are expanding, offering either individual or collective conditional payments to 676 farmers who are potential PES participants. Those payments end, within each experimental session, for all or only for some participants. We consistently find that conservation is not lower after PES than before. Also, conservation contributions tend to fall over time without PES, in keeping with public-goods literatures. Taken together, these results imply that even after our payments end, conservation is above the baseline defined by our controls, suggesting some form of (at least short-run) crowding in.


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Leaders’ distributional & efficiency effects in collective responses to policy: Lab-in-field experiments with small-scale gold miners in Colombia

Luz A. Rodriguez, Maria Alejandra Velez, Alexander Pfaff
World Development 147 (2021)

Globally, small-scale gold mining (SSGM) is an important economic option for many rural poor. It involves local uses of shared resources, like common-pool contexts for which self-governance has avoided ‘tragedies of the commons’. Yet even ideal local governance of SSGM is not societally efficient given non-local damages that suggest external interventions for desired shifts. Because transactions costs are high for rewarding reductions in damages on remote mining frontiers, states could gain if rewards based on low-cost, group compliance measures could successfully induce cooperation in response to policy. However, as group-level rewards invite free-riding, such success requires local collective action. Since that guarantees neither efficient coordination nor equitable distributions of net benefits from compliance, we consider the impacts of emergent leaders on local responses to external policy. We employ framed lab experiments with 200 small-scale gold miners in Colombia’s Pacific to explore leaders’ impacts on equity and efficiency in collective responses to external incentives. Allowing communication before individual choice, which raises efficiency but not always equity, we can identify emergent leaders of groups’ communications. Leaders raise compliance and affect how its costs are distributed, suggesting access to leadership roles matters.

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Graduated stringency within collective incentives for group environmental compliance: Building coordination in field-lab experiments with artisanal gold miners in Colombia

Luz A. Rodriguez, Alexander Pfaff, Maria Alejandra Velez
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 98

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Small-scale gold mining is important to rural livelihoods in the developing world but also a source of environmental externalities. Incentives for individual producers are the classic policy response for a socially efficient balance between livelihoods and the environment. Yet monitoring individual miners is ineffective, or it is very costly, especially on frontiers with scattered small-scale miners. We ask whether monitoring at a group level effectively incentivizes cleaner artisanal mining by combining lower-cost external monitoring with local collective action.We employ a mining-framed, threshold-public-goods experiment in Colombia’s Pacific region, with 640 participants from frontier mining communities. To study compliance with collective environmental targets, we vary the target stringency, including to compare increases over time in the stringency versus decreases. We find that collective incentives can induce efficient equilibria, with group compliance — and even inefficient overcompliance — despite the existence of equilibria with zero contributions. Yet, for demanding targets in which the reward for compliance barely outweighs the cost, compliance can collapse. Those outcomes improve with past successes for easier targets, however, so our results suggest gain from building coordination via graduated stringency.


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Contracts versus Trust for Transfers of Nature’s Services: equity and efficiency in resource allocation and environmental provision

Alexander Pfaff, Maria Alejandra Velez, Amar Hamoudi, Renzo Taddei, Kenneth Broad
Water Resources & Economics 2018

Managing natural-resource allocation and environmental externalities is a challenge. Institutional designs are central when improving water quality for downstream users, for instance, and when reallocating water quantities including for climate adaptation. Views differ on which institutions are best: states; markets; or informal institutions. For transfers of ecosystem services, we compare informal trust-based institutions to enforced contracts, both being institutional types we observe commonly in the field. The trust-based institutions lack binding promises, thus ecosystem-services suppliers are unsure about the compensation they will receive for transferring services to users. We employ decision experiments given the shortcomings of the alternative methods for empirical study of institutions, as well as the limits on theoretical prediction about behaviors under trust. In our bargaining game that decouples equity and efficiency, we find that enforced contracts increased efficiency as well as all measures of equity. This informs the design of institutions to manage transfers of ecosystem services, as equity in surplus sharing is important in of itself and in permitting efficient allocation.

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Spillovers from Targeting of Incentives: exploring responses to being excluded

Francisco Alpizar, Anna Norden, Alexander Pfaff, Juan Robalino
Journal of Economic Psychology 59:87-98

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A growing set of policies involve transfers conditioned upon socially desired actions, such as attending school or conserving forest. However, given a desire to maximize the impact of limited funds by avoiding transfers that do not change behavior, typically some potential recipients are excluded on the basis of their characteristics, their actions or at random. This paper uses a laboratory experiment to study the behavior of individuals excluded on different bases from a new incentive that encourages real monetary donations to a public environmental conservation program. We show that the donations from the individuals who were excluded based on prior high contributions fell significantly. Yet the rationale used for exclusion mattered, in that none of the other selection criteria used as the basis for exclusion resulted in negative effects on contributions.


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