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Pet Overpopulation: An Economic Analysis


  • Coate Stephen

    () (Cornell University)

  • Knight Brian

    () (Brown University)


The market for pets in the U.S. is important economically and socially. Pets differ from standard economic goods in significant ways, and the market displays a number of interesting problems, most notably pet overpopulation. Despite this, the market has been ignored by economists. This paper develops a dynamic model of the market for pets and uses it to study the problem of pet overpopulation. The positive predictions of the model square well with key features of the markets for dogs and cats in the U.S. The model is used to understand, from a welfare economic perspective, the sense in which there is overpopulation of pets and the underlying causes of the problem. The paper also employs the model to consider what policies might be implemented to deal with the problem. A calibrated example is developed to illustrate these corrective policies and quantify the potential welfare gains.

Suggested Citation

  • Coate Stephen & Knight Brian, 2010. "Pet Overpopulation: An Economic Analysis," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-59, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:10:y:2010:i:1:n:106

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Allen, Robert C. & Keay, Ian, 2004. "Saving the Whales: Lessons from the Extinction of the Eastern Arctic Bowhead," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(02), pages 400-432, June.
    2. Hirschman, Elizabeth C, 1994. " Consumers and Their Animal Companions," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(4), pages 616-632, March.
    3. Endenburg, N. & Hart, H. 't & Bouw, J., 1994. "Motives for acquiring companion animals," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 191-206, March.
    4. Rosen, Sherwin & Murphy, Kevin M & Scheinkman, Jose A, 1994. "Cattle Cycles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(3), pages 468-492, June.
    5. Carlos, Ann M. & Lewis, Frank D., 1993. "Indians, the Beaver, and the Bay: The Economics of Depletion in the Lands of the Hudson's Bay Company, 1700–1763," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 53(03), pages 465-494, September.
    6. M. Scott Taylor, 2011. "Buffalo Hunt: International Trade and the Virtual Extinction of the North American Bison," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3162-3195, December.
    7. H. Scott Gordon, 1954. "The Economic Theory of a Common-Property Resource: The Fishery," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 62, pages 124-124.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D62 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Externalities
    • Q20 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - General
    • Q57 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Ecological Economics


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