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Modeling Spatial Sustainability: Spatial Welfare Economics versus Ecological Footprint


  • Fabio Grazi

    (University of Venice)

  • Jeroen C.J.M. van den Bergh

    (Free University)

  • Piet Rietveld

    (Free University)


A spatial welfare framework for the analysis of the spatial dimensions of sustainability is developed. It incorporates agglomeration effects, interregional trade, negative environmental externalities and various land use categories. The model is used to compare rankings of spatial configurations according to evaluations based on social welfare and ecological footprint indicators. Five spatial configurations are considered for this purpose. The exercise is operationalized with the help of a two-region model of the economy that is in line with the ‘new economic geography’. Various (counter) examples show that the footprint method is not consistent with an approach aimed at maximum social welfare.

Suggested Citation

  • Fabio Grazi & Jeroen C.J.M. van den Bergh & Piet Rietveld, 2006. "Modeling Spatial Sustainability: Spatial Welfare Economics versus Ecological Footprint," Working Papers 2006.5, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  • Handle: RePEc:fem:femwpa:2006.5

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ebert, Udo & Welsch, Heinz, 2004. "Meaningful environmental indices: a social choice approach," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 270-283, March.
    2. Rikard Forslid & Gianmarco I.P. Ottaviano, 2003. "An analytically solvable core-periphery model," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(3), pages 229-240, July.
    3. Randall W. Eberts & Daniel P. McMillen, 1999. "Agglomeration Economies and Urban Public Infrastructure," Book chapters authored by Upjohn Institute researchers,in: Paul Cheshire & Edwin S. Mills (ed.), handbook or Regional and Urban Economics, volume 3, pages 1455-1495 W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    4. Dixit, Avinash K & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1977. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 297-308, June.
    5. Michael A. Toman, 1994. "Economics and "Sustainability": Balancing Trade-Offs and Imperatives," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 70(4), pages 399-413.
    6. Krugman, Paul, 1991. "Increasing Returns and Economic Geography," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(3), pages 483-499, June.
    7. McDonald, Garry W. & Patterson, Murray G., 2004. "Ecological Footprints and interdependencies of New Zealand regions," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1-2), pages 49-67, September.
    8. Lenzen, Manfred & Murray, Shauna A., 2001. "A modified ecological footprint method and its application to Australia," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 229-255, May.
    9. van den Bergh, Jeroen C. J. M. & Verbruggen, Harmen, 1999. "Spatial sustainability, trade and indicators: an evaluation of the 'ecological footprint'," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 61-72, April.
    10. Jon D. Erickson & John M. Gowdy, 2000. "Resource Use, Institutions, and Sustainability: A Tale of Two Pacific Island Cultures," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 76(3), pages 345-354.
    11. van Vuuren, Detlef P. & Bouwman, Lex F., 2005. "Exploring past and future changes in the ecological footprint for world regions," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(1), pages 43-62, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rauscher, Michael, 2009. "Concentration, separation, and dispersion: Economic geography and the environment," Thuenen-Series of Applied Economic Theory 109, University of Rostock, Institute of Economics.

    More about this item


    Agglomeration effects; Trade advantages; Negative externalities; Population density; Spatial configuration; Transport;

    JEL classification:

    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • F18 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Environment
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • Q57 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Ecological Economics
    • R12 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Size and Spatial Distributions of Regional Economic Activity; Interregional Trade (economic geography)

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