Relative Income and Preferences for Public Goods
with Tillmann Eymess and Angelika Budjan

Abstract: Guided by a theoretical framework, we study how perceived relative income affects preferences for public goods. In a randomized survey experiment, we inform respondents from India of their official income rank and elicit preferences for air quality, including actual contributions to environmental initiatives. Right-wing supporters withdraw contributions when perceived relative income increases. The effect coincides with diminished health concerns and lower intentions to utilize private protection measures against air pollution. In contrast, center-left supporters do not reduce contributions. A second survey experiment demonstrates the causality of the relationship using a novel treatment that exogenously shifts relative income perceptions.

Link to working paper


Strategic Ignorance and Perceived Control
with Tillmann Eymess, Angelika Budjan, and Alice Soldà

Abstract: Information can trigger unpleasant emotions. As a result, individuals might be tempted to willfully ignore it. We experimentally investigate whether increasing perceived control can mitigate strategic ignorance. Participants from India were presented with a choice to receive information about the health risk associated with air pollution and later asked to recall it. We find that perceived control leads to a substantial improvement in information retention. Moreover, perceived control mostly benefits optimists, who show both a reduction in information avoidance and an increase in information retention. This latter result is confirmed with a US sample. A theoretical framework rationalizes these findings.

Link to working paper

Media coverage in Psychology Today

Racial Demographics and Environmental Auditing in the USA
with Tom Zeisig

Abstract: One mandate of the US Environmental Protection Agency is to use its legal authority to promote and ensure environmental justice. This paper investigates to what extent this has been the case in the recent past. Our analysis draws on a comprehensive dataset that links auditing information from all environmentally relevant plants across the USA over 2000 – 2018 to county-level demographic and ethnic yearly information. We study whether changes in the racial composition of US counties are followed by adjustments in the volume of air quality inspections to polluting plants.
Using a staggered difference-in-differences design, we find robust evidence that the share of inspected plants within a county decreases following an increase in the share of the Nonwhite population. This coincides with higher air pollution levels and an increased rate of nonattainment designations.

Link to working paper

Environmental Protection and Labor Market Composition
with Sreeja Jaiswal and Daniel Schaeffer

Abstract: This paper investigates the long-term impacts of protected area management on the labor market participation and composition of the affected population. We study changes spanning two decades in the Western Ghats region of India, one of the key global biodiversity hotspots with the highest population density. Our findings indicate a noteworthy shift toward non-farm employment. Additionally, our research unveils a marked trend towards irregular income patterns: eco-development initiatives appear to have resulted in a significant decline in year-round employment coupled with a corresponding rise in employment for less than six months a year. The primary mechanism we identify is a distinct change in land use patterns, whereby villages under the scope of eco-development initiatives manifest a substantial transition from irrigated to rainfed agricultural land, known to be conducive to seasonal employment. Following these changes, lower consumption levels and higher poverty rates persist in the affected population compared to surrounding areas.

Link to working paper

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