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Environmental variability and collective action: Experimental insights from an irrigation game

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  • Anderies, John M.
  • Janssen, Marco A.
  • Lee, Allen
  • Wasserman, Hannah
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    Abstract

    Studies of collective action in commons dilemmas in social–ecological systems typically focus on scenarios in which actors all share symmetric (or similar) positions in relation to the common-pool resource. Many common social–ecological systems do not meet these criteria, most notably, irrigation systems. Participants in irrigation systems must solve two related collective action problems: 1) the provisioning of physical infrastructure necessary to utilize the resource (water), and 2) the asymmetric common-pool resource dilemma where the relative positions of “head-enders” and “tail-enders” generate asymmetric access to the resource itself (water). In times of scarcity, head-enders have an incentive to not share water with tail-enders. Likewise, tail-enders have an incentive to not provide labor to maintain the system if they do not receive water. These interdependent incentives may induce a cooperative outcome under favorable conditions. However, how robust is this system of interdependent incentives in the presence of environmental variability that generates uncertainty about water availability either through variation in the water supply itself or through shocks to infrastructure? This paper reports on results from laboratory experiments designed to address this question.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800913001390
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

    Volume (Year): 93 (2013)
    Issue (Month): C ()
    Pages: 166-176

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:93:y:2013:i:c:p:166-176

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

    Related research

    Keywords: Commons dilemmas; Uncertainty; Experiments; Collective action; Irrigation;

    References

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    1. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., . "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Chapters in Economics, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    2. Elinor Ostrom & Roy Gardner, 1993. "Coping with Asymmetries in the Commons: Self-Governing Irrigation Systems Can Work," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(4), pages 93-112, Fall.
    3. Mark Isaac, R. & McCue, Kenneth F. & Plott, Charles R., 1985. "Public goods provision in an experimental environment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 51-74, February.
    4. Anderies, John M. & Janssen, Marco A. & Bousquet, François & Cardenas, Juan-Camilo & Castillo, Daniel & Lopez, Maria-Claudio & Tobias, Robert & Vollan, Björn & Wutich, Amber, 2011. "The challenge of understanding decisions in experimental studies of common pool resource governance," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(9), pages 1571-1579, July.
    5. Ahn, T K & Ostrom, Elinor & Walker, James M, 2003. " Heterogeneous Preferences and Collective Action," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 117(3-4), pages 295-314, December.
    6. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
    7. Janssen, Marco A. & Bousquet, François & Cardenas, Juan-Camilo & Castillo, Daniel & Worrapimphong, Kobchai, 2012. "Field experiments on irrigation dilemmas," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 65-75.
    8. Konow, James, 2001. "Fair and square: the four sides of distributive justice," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 137-164, October.
    9. Ahn, T.K. & Ostrom, Elinor & Walker, James, 2010. "A common-pool resource experiment with postgraduate subjects from 41 countries," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(12), pages 2624-2633, October.
    10. Daniel Balliet, 2010. "Communication and Cooperation in Social Dilemmas: A Meta-Analytic Review," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 54(1), pages 39-57, February.
    11. Marco Janssen & John Anderies & Sanket Joshi, 2011. "Coordination and cooperation in asymmetric commons dilemmas," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 14(4), pages 547-566, November.
    12. Isaac, R Mark & Walker, James M, 1988. "Communication and Free-Riding Behavior: The Voluntary Contribution Mechanism," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 26(4), pages 585-608, October.
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