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Do the rich have stronger willingness to pay for environmental protection? New evidence from a survey in China


  • Shao, Shuai
  • Tian, Zhihua
  • Fan, Meiting


The majority of existing studies argue that rich people and the residents in high-income countries and regions have stronger willingness to pay (WTP) for environmental protection. Does such a rule hold true for China at the present stage? Previous studies pay little attention to this issue due to the lack of related data. Merging the micro data from the Chinese General Social Survey in 2010 (CGSS2010) with the macro data at the corresponding urban level of China, as well as two types of satellite monitoring data, this paper investigates the effect of income on residents’ WTP for environmental protection at both macro and micro perspectives based on the ordered Logit model. The results show that the rich do have stronger WTP for environmental protection. However, with the increase in residents’ income, the marginal WTP for environmental protection will decline, and a reversal occurs at the top income level. Therefore, the WTP does not always rise with the increase in income, and the middle-income class has the strongest WTP for environmental protection. Moreover, after controlling individual characteristics, residents’ WTP for environmental protection more depends on environmental pollution degree rather than urban average income level measured by both GDP per capita and the nighttime lights data from satellite monitoring. The residents in more polluted cities have stronger WTP for environmental protection. Therefore, it is not reasonable to improve people’s environmental preferences purely through economic development.

Suggested Citation

  • Shao, Shuai & Tian, Zhihua & Fan, Meiting, 2018. "Do the rich have stronger willingness to pay for environmental protection? New evidence from a survey in China," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 83-94.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:105:y:2018:i:c:p:83-94
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2017.12.033

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    1. Yujing Guo & Qian Zhang & Kin Keung Lai & Yingqin Zhang & Shubin Wang & Wanli Zhang, 2020. "The Impact of Urban Transportation Infrastructure on Air Quality," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(14), pages 1-23, July.
    2. Zhang, Shengling & Li, Yue & Hao, Yu & Zhang, Yipeng, 2018. "Does public opinion affect air quality? Evidence based on the monthly data of 109 prefecture-level cities in China," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 299-311.
    3. Xu, Bin & Lin, Boqiang, 2018. "Do we really understand the development of China's new energy industry?," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 733-745.
    4. Zhihua Tian & Yanfang Tian & Yang Chen & Shuai Shao, 2020. "The economic consequences of environmental regulation in China: From a perspective of the environmental protection admonishing talk policy," Business Strategy and the Environment, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(4), pages 1723-1733, May.
    5. Sun, Chuanwang & Li, Zhi & Ma, Tiemeng & He, Runyong, 2019. "Carbon efficiency and international specialization position: Evidence from global value chain position index of manufacture," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 235-242.
    6. Ouyang, Xiaoling & Zhuang, Wuxu & Sun, Chuanwang, 2019. "Haze, health, and income: An integrated model for willingness to pay for haze mitigation in Shanghai, China," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(C).
    7. Liu, Li-Jing & Liang, Qiao-Mei & Creutzig, Felix & Ward, Hauke & Zhang, Kun, 2020. "Sweet spots are in the food system: Structural adjustments to co-control regional pollutants and national GHG emissions in China," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 171(C).


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