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Determinants of Land-Use Change In the United States 1982-1997

  • Stavins, Robert
  • Plantinga, Andrew
  • Lubowski, Ruben

Changes in the use of land in the United States produce significant economic and environmental effects with important implications for a wide variety of policy issues, including protection of wildlife habitat, management of urban growth, and mitigation of global climate change. In contrast to previous descriptive and qualitative analyses of the trends in national land use, this paper uses an econometric approach to isolate the importance of historical changes in land-use profits and key government policies in determining national land-use changes from 1982 to 1997. The policies we examine are the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and total government payments to crop producers. We estimate a national-level discrete choice model of changes among the major land-use categories (crops, pasture, forest, urban, range, and CRP) with parcel-level observations of land use and land quality from the U.S.D.A. National Resources Inventory NRI) and measures of countylevel land-use net returns from a variety of sources. We then use fitted values from the econometric model to simulate land-use change from 1982 to 1997 under a series of factual and counterfactual scenarios that isolate the effects of different economic and policy factors. The simulations suggest how changes in economic returns and government policies have driven land-use changes in the past and will continue to affect nationwide land-use changes in the future. For example, we find that the introduction of the CRP and the decline in crop profits were the most significant explanatory factors driving the decline in cropland. Our results highlight some “unintended consequences” of government policies and the importance of net returns to a range of alternative land uses as determinants of land area change for each particular use.

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Paper provided by Resources For the Future in its series Discussion Papers with number dp-03-47.

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Date of creation: 31 Aug 2003
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Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-03-47
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  1. Stavins, Robert N & Jaffe, Adam B, 1990. "Unintended Impacts of Public Investments on Private Decisions: The Depletion of Forested Wetlands," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 337-52, June.
  2. Miranowski, John, 1993. "Understanding Farmland Price Changes," Staff General Research Papers 10696, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  3. Plantinga, Andrew J. & Ahn, Soeun, 2002. "Efficient Policies For Environmental Protection: An Econometric Analysis Of Incentives For Land Conversion And Retention," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 27(01), July.
  4. Nancy E. Bockstael, 1996. "Modeling Economics and Ecology: The Importance of a Spatial Perspective," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 78(5), pages 1168-1180.
  5. Plantinga, Andrew & Lubowski, Ruben & Stavins, Robert, 2002. "The Effects of Potential Land Development on Agricultural Land Prices," Working Paper Series rwp02-012, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  6. William Greene, 2001. "Fixed and Random Effects in Nonlinear Models," Working Papers 01-01, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
  7. Claassen, Roger & Tegene, Abebayehu, 1999. "Agricultural Land Use Choice: A Discrete Choice Approach," Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association, vol. 28(1), April.
  8. Heimlich, Ralph E. & Anderson, William D., 2001. "Development At The Urban Fringe And Beyond: Impacts On Agriculture And Rural Land," Agricultural Economics Reports 33943, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  9. Poe, Gregory L., 1998. "Propery Tax Distortions And Participation In Federal Easement Programs: An Exploratory Analysis Of The Wetlands Reserve Program," Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association, vol. 27(1), April.
  10. Parks P. J. & Kramer R. A., 1995. "A Policy Simulation of the Wetlands Reserve Program," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 223-240, March.
  11. Kenneth Train, 2003. "Discrete Choice Methods with Simulation," Online economics textbooks, SUNY-Oswego, Department of Economics, number emetr2.
  12. Andrew J. Plantinga, 1996. "The Effect of Agricultural Policies on Land Use and Environmental Quality," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 78(4), pages 1082-1091.
  13. Ralph J. Alig & Robert G. Healy, 1987. "Urban and Built-Up Land Area Changes in the United States: An Empirical Investigation of Determinants," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 63(3), pages 215-226.
  14. Schatzki, Todd, 2003. "Options, uncertainty and sunk costs:: an empirical analysis of land use change," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 86-105, July.
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