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Environmental Concern and the Business Cycle: The Chilling Effect of Recession


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  • Matthew E. Kahn
  • Matthew J. Kotchen


This paper uses three different sources of data to investigate the association between the business cycle—measured with unemployment rates—and environmental concern. Building on recent research that finds internet search terms to be useful predictors of health epidemics and economic activity, we find that an increase in a state’s unemployment rate decreases Google searches for “global warming” and increases searches for “unemployment,” and that the effect differs according to a state’s political ideology. From national surveys, we find that an increase in a state’s unemployment rate is associated with a decrease in the probability that residents think global warming is happening and reduced support for the U.S to target policies intended to mitigate global warming. Finally, in California, we find that an increase in a county’s unemployment rate is associated with a significant decrease in county residents choosing the environment as the most important policy issue. Beyond providing the first empirical estimates of macroeconomic effects on environmental concern, we discuss the results in terms of the potential impact on environmental policy and understanding the full cost of recessions.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16241.

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Date of creation: Jul 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16241

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Blog mentions

As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Google Trends Delivers a Verdict on Which Economist the Public Cares About
    by Matthew E. Kahn in Environmental and Urban Economics on 2011-09-10 04:31:00
  2. A Response to Fellow Climate Change Nerds
    by Matthew E. Kahn in Environmental and Urban Economics on 2010-12-28 21:18:00
  3. A Reply to a Smart Email About Rational Expectations and Climate Change Adaptation
    by Matthew E. Kahn in Environmental and Urban Economics on 2010-12-18 19:00:00
  4. The Causes and Consequences of Environmentalism
    by Matthew E. Kahn in Environmental and Urban Economics on 2010-08-25 01:03:00
  5. U.S High Carbon Exceptionalism
    by Matthew E. Kahn in the reality-based community on 2011-10-16 15:07:41
  6. The EPAâ??s Challenge and the Rock & Roll Granny
    by Matthew Kahn in the reality-based community on 2011-07-06 14:33:48
  7. Cap and Blame
    by Matthew Kahn in the reality-based community on 2011-04-21 15:47:21
  8. Behavioral Economics and Climate Change
    by Matthew E. Kahn in Legal Planet on 2012-04-09 00:03:20
  9. Theda Skocpol on Federal Carbon Policy Design
    by Matthew E. Kahn in Legal Planet on 2013-01-19 17:07:47
  10. Are Recessions Good for the Environment? Evidence from Greece
    by Matthew Kahn in Environmental and Urban Economics on 2014-01-03 00:31:00
Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
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Cited by:
  1. Gary D. Libecap, 2013. "Addressing Global Environmental Externalities: Transaction Costs Considerations," NBER Working Papers 19501, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Gary D. Libecap, 2014. "Addressing Global Environmental Externalities: Transaction Costs Considerations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 52(2), pages 424-79, June.
  3. Parag A. Pathak & Alvin E. Roth, 2013. "Matching with Couples: Stability and Incentives in Large Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(4), pages 1585-1632.
  4. Chonnikarn Fern Jira & Michael W. Toffel, 2011. "Engaging Supply Chains in Climate Change," Harvard Business School Working Papers 12-026, Harvard Business School, revised Oct 2012.
  5. Herrnstadt, Evan & Muehlegger, Erich, 2013. "Weather, Salience of Climate Change and Congressional Voting," Working Paper Series rwp13-023, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  6. Nils Kok & Marquise McGraw & John Quigley, 2012. "The diffusion over time and space of energy efficiency in building," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer, vol. 48(2), pages 541-564, April.
  7. Robert Brulle & Jason Carmichael & J. Jenkins, 2012. "Shifting public opinion on climate change: an empirical assessment of factors influencing concern over climate change in the U.S., 2002–2010," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 114(2), pages 169-188, September.
  8. Shkarlet, Serhiy & Petrakov, Iaroslav, 2013. "Environmental Taxation Evolution in Ukraine: Trends, Challenges and Outlook," MPRA Paper 45168, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 18 May 2013.
  9. A. Mantovani & C. Vergari, 2013. "Hedonic vs Environmental Quality: Which Policy Can Help in Lowering Pollution Emissions?," Working Papers wp906, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.


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