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Voluntary Provision of Public Goods for Bads: A Theory of Environmental Offsets


  • Matthew J. Kotchen


This paper examines voluntary provision of a public good that is motivated, in part, to compensate for other activities that diminish the public good. Markets for environmental offsets, such as those that promote carbon neutrality to minimize the impact of climate change, provide an increasingly salient example. An important result, related to one shown previously, is that mean donations to the public good do not converge to zero as the economy grows large. Other results are new and comparable to those from the standard model of a privately provided public good. The Nash equilibrium is solved explicitly to show how individual direct donations and net contributions depend on wealth and heterogenous preferences. Comparative static analysis demonstrates how the level of the public good and social welfare depend on the technology, individual wealth, and an initial level of the public good. Application of the model in an environmental context establishes a starting point for understanding and making predictions about markets such as those for carbon offsets.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew J. Kotchen, 2007. "Voluntary Provision of Public Goods for Bads: A Theory of Environmental Offsets," NBER Working Papers 13643, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13643
    Note: EEE PE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Matthew Kotchen & Michael Moore, 2008. "Conservation: From Voluntary Restraint to a Voluntary Price Premium," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 40(2), pages 195-215, June.
    2. Harbaugh, William T., 1998. "What do donations buy?: A model of philanthropy based on prestige and warm glow," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 269-284, February.
    3. Kotchen, Matthew J., 2005. "Impure public goods and the comparative statics of environmentally friendly consumption," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 281-300, March.
    4. Andreoni, James, 1990. "Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 464-477, June.
    5. Matthew J. Kotchen, 2006. "Green Markets and Private Provision of Public Goods," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(4), pages 816-845, August.
    6. Cornes, Richard & Sandler, Todd, 1984. "Easy Riders, Joint Production, and Public Goods," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 94(375), pages 580-598, September.
    7. Cornes, Richard & Sandler, Todd, 1994. "The comparative static properties of the impure public good model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 403-421, July.
    8. Hollander, Heinz, 1990. "A Social Exchange Approach to Voluntary Cooperation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(5), pages 1157-1167, December.
    9. Andreoni, James, 1988. "Privately provided public goods in a large economy: The limits of altruism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 57-73, February.
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    JEL classification:

    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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