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Environmental Regulation and Development: A Cross-country Empirical Analysis


  • Susmita Dasgupta
  • Ashoka Mody
  • Subhendu Roy
  • David Wheeler


This paper develops comparative indices of environmental policy and performance for 31 countries, using a quantified analysis of reports prepared for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). In cross-country regressions, we find a very strong, positive association between our indicators and the level of economic development, particularly when the latter is adjusted for purchasing power parity. Our results suggest a characteristic progression in the development process, from protection of natural resources to regulation of water pollution and, finally, air pollution control. They also highlight the importance of institutional development, with significant roles for degree of private property protection, effectiveness of the legal/judicial system and efficiency of public administration. Controlling for these variables, "Green" sector indices should be positively correlated with: (1) rural population density; and (2) agricultural and forest production share of national output. "Brown" sector indices should be positively correlated with: (1) particular focus on public health, indexed by life expectancy; (2) urban share of total population; (3) urban population density; and (4) manufacturing share of national output. Our analysis of overall regulatory performance reveals strong cross-country associations with income per capita, security of property rights, and general development of the legal and regulatory system. Surprisingly, however, we find only insignificant or perverse associations with degree of popular representation and freedom of information. For both the Green and Brown indices, performance is again strongly associated with income per capita, freedom of property and (in small samples) measures of regulatory efficiency. The two specifically rural sector variables (population density; proportion of GDP in agriculture and forestry) are only weakly associated with the Green index. The fit is much better for the Brown index: degree of urbanization, population density and manufacturing share in GDP all have the expected signs and relatively high significance. Life expectancy as a proxy for public health priority has no independent effect. In summary, our findings suggest that a detailed, quantified analysis of the UNCED reports can yield comparable and plausible indices of environmental policy performance across countries. Cross-country variations in our environmental index are explained well by variations in income per capita, degree of urbanization and industrialization, security of property rights and general administrative efficiency.

Suggested Citation

  • Susmita Dasgupta & Ashoka Mody & Subhendu Roy & David Wheeler, 2001. "Environmental Regulation and Development: A Cross-country Empirical Analysis," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(2), pages 173-187.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:29:y:2001:i:2:p:173-187
    DOI: 10.1080/13600810125568

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