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A behavioral rebound effect

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  • Dorner, Zack

Abstract

Pro-environmental behaviors are an important avenue for mitigating environmental impacts. Technological improvements are also a vital tool for reducing environmental damage from consumption. However, their benefits are partially offset by the direct rebound effect, whereby a consumer rationally responds to an increase in resource use efficiency by consuming more. This paper investigates whether technological improvement might also reduce behaviorally motivated mitigation of environmental damage. A behavioral rebound effect operates through two channels. First, pro-environmental effort is reduced after a decrease in marginal environmental damage. Second, moral licensing reduces pro-environmental effort further when technological change is endogenous. I develop a novel real effort laboratory experiment to identify these behaviors. I find a positive behavioral rebound effect. I also find evidence consistent with moral licensing, which is strongest among subjects with a higher degree of pro-environmental attitudes and beliefs. Subjects’ baseline level of pro-environmental effort is driven by beliefs about social norms.

Suggested Citation

  • Dorner, Zack, 2019. "A behavioral rebound effect," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 98(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeeman:v:98:y:2019:i:c:s009506961930172x
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jeem.2019.102257
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    Cited by:

    1. Eberling, Elisabeth & Dütschke, Elisabeth & Eckartz, Katharina Marie & Schuler, Johannes, 2019. "Moral licensing and rebound effects in the residential lighting area: An experimental study," Working Papers "Sustainability and Innovation" S09/2019, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI).
    2. Alacevich, Caterina & Bonev, Petyo & Söderberg, Magnus, 2020. "Pro-environmental interventions and behavioral spillovers: Evidence from organic waste sorting in Sweden," Economics Working Paper Series 2006, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Charity; Environmental externality; Laboratory experiment; Mitigation; Moral licensing; Offsetting; Pro-environmental behaviors; Public goods; Rebound effect; Social norms;

    JEL classification:

    • D62 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Externalities
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • Q40 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - General
    • Q55 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Technological Innovation

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