Aniruddh Mohan, Akshay Thyagarajan, Nicholas Muller, 31 July 2020

The nexus of economic development and environmental impact is at the core of current policy debates. This is often captured by an ‘environmental Kuznets curve’, an inverted-U shaped relationship between income and pollution levels. This column argues that, in contrast to conventional approaches, sustainability analysis should focus on the monetary damages of pollution, rather than the physical tonnage of emissions. It highlights a large divergence in the Kuznets curves based on these two approaches. In addition, it proposes a measure of GDP growth which adjusts for monetary pollution damages.

Arik Levinson, James O'Brien, 11 March 2015

Rich countries pollute less partly because people in richer countries consume a less pollution-intensive bundle of goods. This column investigates whether this results from consumer preferences or economy-wide changes. Within a country, the environmental Engel curve is concave – meaning that richer households, while polluting more, consume a less pollution-intensive bundle. Over time, this accounts for half of the decrease in rich household pollution, with the remainder being due to price changes and environmental regulations.

Matthew Kahn, Siqi Zheng, 14 April 2009

What should China do about its noted pollution problems? This column shows that Chinese cities with less air pollution have higher home prices, suggesting that “green amenities” enter housing prices. Moreover, this marginal valuation of clean air is rising over time. China’s major cities may be becoming cleaner as their inhabitants demand improved environmental conditions.

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