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Is the environmental Kuznets curve an empirical regularity?

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  • Deacon, Robert
  • Norman, Catherine S

Abstract

The empirical literature on the environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) purports to describe how a nation’s environmental quality will evolve if it makes the transition from poverty to wealth. The popular generalization is that pollution will first increase and then, if income becomes sufficiently high, decline. Empirical support for this proposition is based primarily on cross-country variations in income and pollution rather than evidence on the behavior of individual countries over time. We examine a recently available data set on SO2, smoke, and particulate air pollution to look for examples of countries following the EKC process. For most pollutants the income-pollution pattern does not differ from what would be expected to occur by chance. According to the EKC hypothesis, the driving force in the worldwide decline in air pollution is growth in income. To check the plausibility of this explanation, we estimate country-specific income elasticities for clean air that are implied by the EKC framework. We find them to be implausibly large relative to other estimates in the literature. We suggest an alternative hypothesis, that public support for environmental protection increased dramatically around 1970, sparking increased efforts to improve environmental quality. Cleanup was faster in rich countries than in poor, however. The record of within-country air pollution trends is broadly consistent with this story.

Suggested Citation

  • Deacon, Robert & Norman, Catherine S, 2004. "Is the environmental Kuznets curve an empirical regularity?," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt2m44f7kr, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt2m44f7kr
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    Cited by:

    1. Lopez, Ramon E. & Galinato, Gregmar I. & Islam, Asif M., 2009. "Pollution and the State: The Role of the Structure of Government," 2009 Conference (53rd), February 11-13, 2009, Cairns, Australia 48055, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
    2. Markusen, James R., 2012. "Per-Capita Income as a Determinant of International Trade and Environmental Policies," Discussion Papers 2013-06, Graduate School of Economics, Hitotsubashi University.
    3. Islam, Asif M. & López, Ramón E., 2015. "Government Spending and Air Pollution in the US," International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, now publishers, vol. 8(2), pages 139-189, July.
    4. Terciane Sabadini Carvalho & Eduardo Almeida, 2011. "The Globalenvironmental Kuznets Curve And The Kyoto Protocol," Anais do XXXVII Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 37th Brazilian Economics Meeting] 183, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pós-Graduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
    5. Robert T. Deacon & Catherine S. Norman, 2006. "Does the Environmental Kuznets Curve Describe How Individual Countries Behave?," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 82(2), pages 291-315.
    6. McAusland, Carol, 2008. "Trade, politics, and the environment: Tailpipe vs. smokestack," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 52-71, January.
    7. Ramón López & Amparo Palacios, 2014. "Why has Europe Become Environmentally Cleaner? Decomposing the Roles of Fiscal, Trade and Environmental Policies," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 58(1), pages 91-108, May.
    8. Kuheli Dutt, 2009. "Governance, institutions and the environment-income relationship: a cross-country study," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 705-723, August.
    9. James R. Markusen, 2014. "Per-Capital Income as a Determinant of International Trade and Environment Policies," CESifo Working Paper Series 4618, CESifo Group Munich.
    10. Ciriaci, Daria & Palma, Daniela, 2010. "Geography, environmental efficiency and Italian economic growth: a spatially-adapted Environmental Kuznets Curve," MPRA Paper 22899, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Terciane Sabadini Carvalho & Eduardo Almeida, 2008. "A hipótese da Curva de Kuznets Ambiental Global: uma perspectiva econométrico-espacial," Anais do XXXVI Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 36th Brazilian Economics Meeting] 200807021032430, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pós-Graduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
    12. Burnett, J. Wesley, 2009. "Economic Growth and Environmental Degradation," 2009 Annual Meeting, January 31-February 3, 2009, Atlanta, Georgia 46838, Southern Agricultural Economics Association.

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    Keywords

    environmental; Kuznets; curve; empirical; regularity;

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