Essays in Environmental and Public Economics

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Title: Essays in Environmental and Public Economics
Author: Vander Naald, Brian
Abstract: Benefit-cost analysis of environmental policies typically focuses on benefits to human health and well-being. When it comes to humans' willingness to pay (WTP) for improvements in the quality of life for other species, however, the evidence is limited. We argue that the other-species morbidity-reduction component of WTP should be calculated net of any "outrage" component associated with the cause of the harm. This net WTP is likely to be correlated with the premium that people are willing to pay for chicken products from birds for which the quality of life has been enhanced by improved animal welfare measures. This paper uses a conjoint choice stated preference survey to reveal the nature of systematic heterogeneity in preferences for "humanely raised" versus "conventionally raised" chicken. We also use latent class analysis to distinguish between two classes of people - those who are willing to pay a premium for humanely raised chicken and those who are not. Proposition 21 on California's 2010 ballot concerned an $18 annual surcharge on vehicles to support state parks. Prop 21 failed, implying 25% of these parks risk closure. Voting patterns at the Census tract level depend on gross price, incomes, age profiles, political ideology, environmental preferences, the availability of local substitutes, and park salience. We simulate counterfactual scenarios under which Prop 21 might have passed and use county-level hold-out samples to illustrate the predictive ability of our model. The California Air Resources Board is slowly phasing out perchloroethylene as the main input in dry cleaning operations in the state. Exploiting differential implementation of this regulation between SCAQMD (South Coast Air Quality Management District) and the rest of the state, we examine the effect of this regulation on the propensity for dry cleaning businesses to exit the industry. We find that regulation has encouraged early exit from the industry in some cases. We also find that regulation decreased ambient concentrations of perchloroethylene in the atmosphere. This dissertation contains both published and unpublished co-authored material. It also contains an appendix for chapter II as a supplemental file.
Date: 2012

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