Fifty Shades of Green - Essays on Eco-friendly Consumption, Public Policy, and Income Inequality

Thumbnail Image


GutixE9rrezMendieta_umd_0117E_23582.pdf (1.42 MB)
No. of downloads:

Publication or External Link





This dissertation offers a thorough examination of the impact of income inequality on environmental quality, with particular attention to the obstacles encountered by low-income individuals and families in adopting sustainable and environmentally friendly consumption practices. Through the development of a general theoretical model, I provide a novel approach on understanding the dynamics of this relationship. By examining various income inequality scenarios, I assess their effects on environmental quality. Based on these findings, I propose a policy recommendation that addresses both income inequality and environmental concerns. Additionally, I propose an innovative laboratory experiment to empirically validate the theoretical predictions of the general model.In Chapter 1 I present a brief introduction emphasizing the significance of examining the impact of income inequality on the environment. he importance of exploring the individual trade-offs associated with consuming environmentally friendly goods (referred to as 'green goods'), which are more expensive, compared to their environmentally harmful counterparts (referred to as 'brown goods'), which are cheaper to buy. Building upon this framework of green and brown goods, I introduce a general model in Chapter 2 to comprehend individual behavior and investigate the impact of income inequality on environmental quality. This theoretical model offers insights into why income inequality can lead to improved, worsened, or neutral outcomes for the environment, which provides an explanation for the mixed empirical evidence found in previous studies. In Chapter 3, I propose a solution to address the issues of income inequality and the externality generated by the consumption of brown goods simultaneously. I propose the implementation of a permit market in which a regulatory agency issues a limited number of permits to cap the total demand for brown goods, thereby preventing environmental quality from falling below a predetermined threshold. Consumers have the opportunity to trade these permits, enabling income transfers from buyers to sellers and ultimately reducing income inequality. Finally, in Chapter 4 I present the design and analysis of a novel laboratory experiment aimed at empirically testing the theoretical predictions derived from the model introduced in Chapter 2. The experimental results reveal a positive effect of income inequality on environmental quality across all treatments, contradicting the predicted negative effect in specific scenarios. To account for these deviations, I augment the theoretical model by integrating two behavioral motivations, which effectively elucidate the observed behavior. These extensions not only contribute to a deeper understanding of the empirical findings but also offer promising prospects for further research exploration.