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What are the social impacts of land use restrictions on local communities? Empirical evidence from Costa Rica

  • Andam, Kwaw S.
  • Ferraro, Paul J.
  • Holland, Margaret B.

Global efforts to reduce deforestation rely heavily on protected areas and land use restrictions. The effect of these restrictions on local communities is currently the subject of heated debate among conservation and development experts. Measuring the social impacts of protected areas is difficult because the effects cannot be isolated from other factors, given the nonrandom placement of protection. We address this problem by applying a quasi-experimental approach to establish the counterfactual (“what would have been the socioeconomic outcome if a protected area had not been established?”). We use matching methods to measure the impacts of pre-1980 protected areas in Costa Rica on socioeconomic outcomes in 2000. In 2000, neighboring communities near protected areas were substantially poorer than average. However, after controlling for pre-protection characteristics associated with both protection and economic growth, the results indicate that poverty declined as a result of protection. Although the statistical significance of this decline is moderately sensitive to potential hidden bias, the results emphatically do not support a hypothesis that ecosystem protection, on average, exacerbates poverty. In contrast, conventional empirical methods implied erroneously that protection had negative social impacts, suggesting that failure to control for confounding factors or baselines can lead to substantially inaccurate estimates.

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File URL: http://purl.umn.edu/51783
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Paper provided by International Association of Agricultural Economists in its series 2009 Conference, August 16-22, 2009, Beijing, China with number 51783.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:ags:iaae09:51783
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  1. Michael Reibel, 2007. "Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Data Processing in Demography: a Review," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer, vol. 26(5), pages 601-618, December.
  2. Skoufias, Emmanuel & Davis, Benjamin & de la Vega, Sergio, 2001. "Targeting the Poor in Mexico: An Evaluation of the Selection of Households into PROGRESA," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(10), pages 1769-1784, October.
  3. Romina Cavatassi & Benjamin Davis & Leslie Lipper, 2004. "Estimating Poverty Over Time and Space: Construction of a time-variant poverty index for Costa Rica," Working Papers 04-21, Agricultural and Development Economics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO - ESA).
  4. Guido W. Imbens, 2003. "Nonparametric Estimation of Average Treatment Effects under Exogeneity: A Review," NBER Technical Working Papers 0294, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. David J. Lewis & Gary L. Hunt & DAndrew J. Plantinga, 2002. "Public Conservation Land and Employment Growth in the Northern Forest Region," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 78(2), pages 245-259.
  6. Ferraro, Paul J., 2002. "The local costs of establishing protected areas in low-income nations: Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(2-3), pages 261-275, December.
  7. A. Smith, Jeffrey & E. Todd, Petra, 2005. "Does matching overcome LaLonde's critique of nonexperimental estimators?," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 125(1-2), pages 305-353.
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