Using Quasi-Experimental Methods to Study the Economic Benefits of Well-Functioning Ecosystems

Eyal Frank, University of Chicago
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Abstract: The talk will highlight the challenge of establishing the causal effects of biodiversity losses, and how quasi-experimental methods allow us to approximate those estimates of interest. Examples from research will demonstrate how those techniques can be used, what assumptions are needed, and the potential pitfalls of using such methods. Examples of how declines in insectivorous bats in the US led to higher insecticide use; (ii) how the collapse of vultures in India resulted in higher human death rates; (iii) how reducing insecticide spraying allowed farmers in Vietnam to preserve natural enemies of rice crops pests and improve infant health; (iv) how the reintroduction of the gray wolf in the US is reducing animal-related vehicle collisions; and (v) how the 1958 to 1960 campaign to eradicate sparrows in China contributed to lower agricultural productivity. The goal is to establish what social scientists mean when they refer to "natural experiments" and what type of questions, in particular, do environmental economists who study conservation and biodiversity are trying to answer.

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