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Poverty and the Environment-Exploring the Relationship between Household Incomes, Private Assets and Natural Assets

  • Urvashi Narain

    (Resources for the Future, Washington DC)

  • Shreekant Gupta

    (Delhi School of Economics)

  • Klaas vant Veld

    (University of Wyoming, Laramie)

Using purpose-collected survey data from 535 households in 60 different villages of the Jhabua district of India, this paper investigates the extent to which rural households depend on common-pool natural resources for their daily livelihood. Previous studies have found that resource dependence-- defined as the fraction of total income derived from common-pool resources--strongly decreases with income. Our study uncovers a more complex relationship. Firstly, for the subsample of households that use positive amounts of resources, we find that dependence follows a U-shaped relationship with income, declining at first but then increasing. Secondly, we find that the probability of being in the subsample of common-pool resource users follows an inverse U-shaped relationship with income - the poorest and richest households are less likely to collect resources than those with intermediate incomes. Resource use by the rich is therefore bimodal - either very high or--for the very rich households--zero. Thirdly, we find that resource dependence increases at all income levels with an increase in the level of common-pool biomass availability. The combination of these results suggests that the quality of natural resources matters to a larger share of the rural population than had previously been believed, common-pool resources contribute a significant fraction of the income not just of the desperately poor, but also of the relatively rich.

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Paper provided by Centre for Development Economics, Delhi School of Economics in its series Working papers with number 134.

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Length: 50 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cde:cdewps:134
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  1. Duraiappah, Anantha K., 1998. "Poverty and environmental degradation: A review and analysis of the nexus," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 26(12), pages 2169-2179, December.
  2. Adhikari, Bhim, 2005. "Poverty, property rights and collective action: understanding the distributive aspects of common property resource management," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(01), pages 7-31, February.
  3. Reardon, Thomas & Vosti, Stephen A., 1995. "Links between rural poverty and the environment in developing countries: Asset categories and investment poverty," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 23(9), pages 1495-1506, September.
  4. Fisher, Monica, 2004. "Household welfare and forest dependence in Southern Malawi," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(02), pages 135-154, May.
  5. Reddy, S. R. C. & Chakravarty, S. P., 1999. "Forest Dependence and Income Distribution in a Subsistence Economy: Evidence from India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(7), pages 1141-1149, July.
  6. Edward B. Barbier, 2005. "Natural Resource-Based Economic Development in History," World Economics, World Economics, Economic & Financial Publishing, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 6(3), pages 103-152, July.
  7. Beck, Tony & Nesmith, Cathy, 2001. "Building on Poor People's Capacities: The Case of Common Property Resources in India and West Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 119-133, January.
  8. Adhikari, Bhim & Di Falco, Salvatore & Lovett, Jon C., 2004. "Household characteristics and forest dependency: evidence from common property forest management in Nepal," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 245-257, February.
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