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Prosocial behavior and incentives: Evidence from field experiments in rural Mexico and Tanzania

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  • Kerr, John
  • Vardhan, Mamta
  • Jindal, Rohit

Abstract

Incentive-based schemes for natural resource conservation are based on the premise that offering payments to groups of land users will motivate them to organize collectively to provide environmental services. In contrast, research from behavioral economics shows that introducing monetary incentives can undermine collective action that is motivated by social norms. In such a case payment could have perverse impacts. In view of this dichotomy, we conducted choice and field experiments in rural Mexico and Tanzania to test the response of prosocial behavior to incentives. The field experiments involved voluntary participation in real communal tasks under different incentive structures. Findings suggest that payments help raise participation where people are otherwise uninterested, but that participation in communal tasks can be high irrespective of the incentive if social norms favoring participation are present. In Tanzania, high individual payments do not undermine participation although they appear to reduce people's satisfaction from the task relative to when there is no payment. In Mexico, group payments made through village authorities yield lower participation where people distrust leaders.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

Volume (Year): 73 (2012)
Issue (Month): C ()
Pages: 220-227

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:73:y:2012:i:c:p:220-227

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/ecolecon

Related research

Keywords: Payment for environmental services; Motivation; Crowding-out; Collective action; Field experiments; Mexico; Tanzania;

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Cited by:
  1. Rode, Julian & Gómez-Baggethun, Erik & Krause, Torsten, 2013. "Economic incentives for biodiversity conservation: What is the evidence for motivation crowding?," UFZ Discussion Papers 19/2013, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Division of Social Sciences (ÖKUS).
  2. Narloch, Ulf & Pascual, Unai & Drucker, Adam G., 2012. "Collective Action Dynamics under External Rewards: Experimental Insights from Andean Farming Communities," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(10), pages 2096-2107.
  3. Yanez-Pagans, Patricia, 2013. "Cash for Cooperation? Payments for Ecosystem Services and Common Property Management in Mexico," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 151295, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  4. Pienaar, Elizabeth F. & Jarvis, Lovell S. & Larson, Douglas M., 2014. "Using a choice experiment framework to value conservation-contingent development programs: An application to Botswana," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 39-48.
  5. Kaczan, David & Swallow, Brent M. & Adamowicz, W.L. (Vic), 2013. "Designing a payments for ecosystem services (PES) program to reduce deforestation in Tanzania: An assessment of payment approaches," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 20-30.
  6. Schäpke, Niko & Rauschmayer, Felix, 2012. "Addressing sufficiency: Including altruistic motives in behavioural models for sustainability transitions," UFZ Discussion Papers 17/2012, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Division of Social Sciences (ÖKUS).

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