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What drives deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon? Evidence from satellite and socioeconomic data

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  • Pfaff, Alexander S.P.

Abstract

This paper analyzes the determinants of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. From a model of optimal use, it derives and then estimates a deforestation equation on county-level data for the period 1978 to 1988. The data include a deforestation measure from satellite images, which is a great advance in that it allows improved within-county analysis. Evidence exists that: increased road density in a county leads to more deforestation in that county and in neighboring counties; development projects were associated with deforestation in the 1970s but not in the 1980s; greater distance from markets south of the Amazon leads to less deforestation; and better soil quality leads to more deforestation. The results for government provision of credit are mixed across specifications. The population density, although the primary explanatory variable in most previous empirical work, does not have a significant effect when all the variables motivated within the model are included. However, a quadratic specification yields a more robust population result: the first few people entering an empty county have significantly more impact than the same number of people added to a densely populated county. This result suggests the importance of the spatial distribution of population.

Suggested Citation

  • Pfaff, Alexander S.P., 1997. "What drives deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon? Evidence from satellite and socioeconomic data," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1772, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1772
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