We consider two aspects of the human enterprise that profoundly affect the global environment: population and consumption. We show that fertility and consumption behavior harbor a class of externalities that have not been much noted in the literature. Both are driven in part by attitudes and preferences that are not egoistic but socially embedded; that is, each household's decisions are influenced by the decisions made by others. In a famous paper, Garrett Hardin [G. Hardin, Science 162, 1243-1248 (1968)] drew attention to overpopulation and concluded that the solution lay in people “abandoning the freedom to breed.” That human attitudes and practices are socially embedded suggests that it is possible for people to reduce their fertility rates and consumption demands without experiencing a loss in wellbeing. We focus on fertility in sub-Saharan Africa and consumption in the rich world and argue that bottom-up social mechanisms rather than top-down government interventions are better placed to bring about those ecologically desirable changes.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||8|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Mar 24 2020|
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Kenneth J. Arrow participated fully in the meeting in which we discussed the topic of this paper and in follow-up emails, shared with us ?a few observations, which, I think, have to be taken account of in our paper,? all of which, we believe, are incorporated here. He died on February 21, 2017. Our collaboration was supported by the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The views expressed herein are entirely those of author A.D. and do not necessarily reflect the views of the UN.
© 2020 National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
- Socially embedded preferences
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article
- Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't