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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Kerr, John & Vardhan, Mamta & Jindal, Rohit, 2012. "Prosocial behavior and incentives: Evidence from field experiments in rural Mexico and Tanzania," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 220-227.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:73:y:2012:i:c:p:220-227
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2011.10.031
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. 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).
    2. repec:eee:ecolec:v:140:y:2017:i:c:p:110-122 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Steven M. Smith, 2017. "Economic Incentives and Conservation: Crowding-in Social Norms in a Groundwater Commons," Working Papers 2017-08, Colorado School of Mines, Division of Economics and Business.
    4. repec:eee:enepol:v:109:y:2017:i:c:p:141-153 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Midler, Estelle & Pascual, Unai & Drucker, Adam G. & Narloch, Ulf & Soto, José Luis, 2015. "Unraveling the effects of payments for ecosystem services on motivations for collective action," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 394-405.
    6. Spash, Clive L. & Theine, Hendrik, 2016. "Voluntary Individual Carbon Trading," SRE-Discussion Papers 5206, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business.
      • Clive L. Spash & Hendrik Theine, 2016. "Voluntary Individual Carbon Trading," SRE-Disc sre-disc-2016_04, Institute for Multilevel Governance and Development, Department of Socioeconomics, Vienna University of Economics and Business.
    7. Joachim Schleich & Claudia Schwirplies & Andreas Ziegler, 2014. "Private provision of public goods: Do individual climate protection efforts depend on perceptions of climate policy?," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201453, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    8. Czap, Natalia V. & Czap, Hans J. & Lynne, Gary D. & Burbach, Mark E., 2015. "Walk in my shoes: Nudging for empathy conservation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 147-158.
    9. Singh, Neera M., 2015. "Payments for ecosystem services and the gift paradigm: Sharing the burden and joy of environmental care," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 53-61.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. Rode, Julian & Gómez-Baggethun, Erik & Krause, Torsten, 2015. "Motivation crowding by economic incentives in conservation policy: A review of the empirical evidence," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 270-282.
    13. Grillos, Tara, 2017. "Economic vs non-material incentives for participation in an in-kind payments for ecosystem services program in Bolivia," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 178-190.
    14. Nystad Handberg , Øyvind & Angelsen, Arild, 2016. "Pay little, get little; pay more, get a little more: A framed forest experiment in Tanzania," Working Paper Series 02-2016, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, School of Economics and Business.
    15. repec:now:jirere:101.00000084 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. 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.
    17. Goytom Abraha Kahsay & Workineh Asmare Kassie & Abebe Damte Beyene & Lars Gårn Hansen, 2017. "Do public works programs crowd-out pro-environmental behavior? Empirical evidence from food-for-work programs in Ethiopia," IFRO Working Paper 2017/13, University of Copenhagen, Department of Food and Resource Economics.
    18. 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).
    19. Figureau, A.-G. & Montginoul, M. & Rinaudo, J.-D., 2015. "Policy instruments for decentralized management of agricultural groundwater abstraction: A participatory evaluation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 147-157.
    20. Simora, Michael & Frondel, Manuel & Vance, Colin, 2018. "Does financial compensation increase the acceptance of power lines? Evidence from Germany," Ruhr Economic Papers 742, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
    21. 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.
    22. Neuteleers, Stijn & Engelen, Bart, 2015. "Talking money: How market-based valuation can undermine environmental protection," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 253-260.
    23. Brent, Daniel A. & Friesen, Lana & Gangadharan, Lata & Leibbrandt, Andreas, 2017. "Behavioral Insights from Field Experiments in Environmental Economics," International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, now publishers, vol. 10(2), pages 95-143, May.

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