Determinants of conservation among the rural poor: A charitable contribution experiment
This paper examines how conservation decisions are affected by environmental degradation. Donations to an environmental NGO and participation in actual conservation activities capture individual preferences for environmental conservation. Environmental degradation is measured both through survey-based data on experiences of deforestation and environmental shocks, and through indices of deforestation constructed with GIS data. The results show that being exposed to environmental degradation is correlated both with higher donations and conservation behavior. The relationship between conservation choices and individual social preferences is also explored. Experimental measures of individual altruism and inequality aversion, and survey measures of trust, time preferences and civic engagement are correlated with donations and real world conservation decisions respectively. These findings show the role of environmental awareness in fostering environmental conservation even in very poor settings. They also highlight the potential of experiments, which closely mirror real world decisions, to generate conclusions generalizable to individual behavior outside the laboratory.
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