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The Political Economy of Deforestation in the Tropics

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Listed:
  • Robin Burgess
  • Matthew Hansen
  • Benjamin A. Olken
  • Peter Potapov
  • Stefanie Sieber

Abstract

Tropical deforestation accounts for almost one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions and threatens the world's most diverse ecosystems. Much of this deforestation is driven by illegal logging. We use novel satellite data that tracks annual deforestation across eight years of Indonesian institutional change to examine how local officials' incentives affect deforestation. Increases in the number of political jurisdictions lead to increased deforestation and lower timber prices, consistent with Cournot competition between jurisdictions. Illegal logging and local oil and gas rents are short-run substitutes, but this effect disappears over time with political turnover. The results illustrate how local officials' incentives affect deforestation and show how standard economic theories can explain illegal behavior. Copyright 2012, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Robin Burgess & Matthew Hansen & Benjamin A. Olken & Peter Potapov & Stefanie Sieber, 2012. "The Political Economy of Deforestation in the Tropics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(4), pages 1707-1754.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:127:y:2012:i:4:p:1707-1754
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/qje/qjs034
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Akhmed Akhmedov & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2004. "Opportunistic Political Cycles: Test in a Young Democracy Setting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(4), pages 1301-1338.
    2. Baland, Jean-Marie & Bardhan, Pranab & Das, Sanghamitra & Mookherjee, Dilip, 2010. "Forests to the People: Decentralization and Forest Degradation in the Indian Himalayas," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 38(11), pages 1642-1656, November.
    3. Alberto Alesina, 1987. "Macroeconomic Policy in a Two-Party System as a Repeated Game," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 102(3), pages 651-678.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • L73 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Primary Products and Construction - - - Forest Products

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