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Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research: Methodological Challenges, Literature Gaps, and Recommendations

Author

Listed:
  • Leah H. Palm-Forster

    (University of Delaware)

  • Paul J. Ferraro

    (Johns Hopkins University)

  • Nicholas Janusch

    (California Energy Commission)

  • Christian A. Vossler

    (University of Tennessee)

  • Kent D. Messer

    (University of Delaware)

Abstract

Insights from behavioral and experimental economics research can inform the design of evidence-based, cost-effective agri-environmental programs that mitigate environmental damages and promote the supply of environmental benefits from agricultural landscapes. To enhance future research on agri-environmental program design and to increase the speed at which credible scientific knowledge is accumulated, we highlight methodological challenges, identify important gaps in the existing literature, and make key recommendations for both researchers and those evaluating research. We first report on four key methodological challenges—underpowered designs, multiple hypothesis testing, interpretation issues, and choosing appropriate econometric methods—and suggest strategies to overcome these challenges. Specifically, we emphasize the need for more detailed planning during the experimental design stage, including power analyses and publishing a pre-analysis plan. Greater use of replication studies and meta-analyses will also help address these challenges and strengthen the quality of the evidence base. In the second part of this paper, we discuss how insights from behavioral and experimental economics can be applied to improve the design of agri-environmental programs. We summarize key insights using the MINDSPACE framework, which categorizes nine behavioral effects that influence decision-making (messenger, incentives, norms, defaults, salience, priming, affect, commitment, and ego), and we highlight recent research that tests these effects in agri-environmental contexts. We also propose a framework for prioritizing policy-relevant research in this domain.

Suggested Citation

  • Leah H. Palm-Forster & Paul J. Ferraro & Nicholas Janusch & Christian A. Vossler & Kent D. Messer, 2019. "Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research: Methodological Challenges, Literature Gaps, and Recommendations," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 73(3), pages 719-742, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:enreec:v:73:y:2019:i:3:d:10.1007_s10640-019-00342-x
    DOI: 10.1007/s10640-019-00342-x
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Behavioral insights; Conservation; Effect size; Environmental economics; Experimental design; Power analysis; Subject pools;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • D9 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy
    • Q52 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Pollution Control Adoption and Costs; Distributional Effects; Employment Effects

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