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Appeals to social norms as policy instruments to address consumption externalities


  • Kallbekken, Steffen
  • Westskog, Hege
  • Mideksa, Torben K.


We consider appeals to social norms as a policy instrument to address consumption externalities. We explore whether appeals to social norms can be an efficient policy instrument and compare the efficiency of such appeals to the efficiency of taxation in addressing consumption externalities. We find that when the existing norm helps to shift consumption towards the socially optimal level of consumption, taxation welfare dominates appeals to social norms as a policy tool. While previous studies have found that economic instruments are superior to information in other contexts, we arrive at a different conclusion for situations where the norm shifts behavior away from what is socially optimal. In such cases appeals to social norms can be a better policy instrument than taxation.

Suggested Citation

  • Kallbekken, Steffen & Westskog, Hege & Mideksa, Torben K., 2010. "Appeals to social norms as policy instruments to address consumption externalities," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 447-454, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:39:y:2010:i:4:p:447-454

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    Cited by:

    1. Sjögren, Tomas, 2016. "Consumption Norms with Endogenous Norm Beliefs – Implications for Welfare, Commodity Taxation and Income Redistribution," Umeå Economic Studies 938, Umeå University, Department of Economics.
    2. Eftichios S. Sartzetakis & Anastasios Xepapadeas & Athanasios Yannacopoulos, 2015. "Regulating the Environmental Consequences of Preferences for Social Status within an Evolutionary Framework," Working Papers 2015.34, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    3. Joachim Fuenfgelt & Stefan Baumgaertner, 2012. "Regulation of morally responsible agents with motivation crowding," Working Paper Series in Economics 241, University of Lüneburg, Institute of Economics.
    4. Geir Asheim, 2010. "Strategic Use of Environmental Information," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 46(2), pages 207-216, June.
    5. Panzone, Luca A. & Wossink, Ada & Southerton, Dale, 2013. "The design of an environmental index of sustainable food consumption: A pilot study using supermarket data," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 44-55.
    6. Leonard, Tammy & McKillop, Caitlin & Carson, Jo Ann & Shuval, Kerem, 2014. "Neighborhood effects on food consumption," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 99-113.
    7. Håkon Sælen & Hege Westskog & Einar Strumse, 2012. "Values, attitudes, and pro-environmental behaviours – is there a link? Results from a Norwegian survey," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 32(1), pages 486-493.
    8. Gsottbauer, Elisabeth & van den Bergh, Jeroen C.J.M., 2014. "Environmental policy when pollutive consumption is sensitive to advertising: Norms versus status," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 39-50.


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