NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Is the Endangered Species Act Endangering Species?

John A. List, Michael Margolis, Daniel E. Osgood

NBER Working Paper No. 12777
Issued in December 2006
NBER Program(s):   PE   EEE

We develop theory and present a suite of theoretically consistent empirical measures to explore the extent to which market intervention inadvertently alters resource allocation in a sequentialmove principal/agent game. We showcase our approach empirically by exploring the extent to which the U.S. Endangered Species Act has altered land development patterns. We report evidence indicating significant acceleration of development directly after each of several events deemed likely to raise fears among owners of habitat land. Our preferred estimate suggests an overall acceleration of land development by roughly one year. We also find from complementary hedonic regression models that habitat parcels declined in value when the habitat map was published, which is consistent with our estimates of the degree of preemption. These results have clear implications for policymakers, who continue to discuss alternative regulatory frameworks for species preservation. More generally, our modeling strategies can be widely applied -- from any particular economic environment that has a sequential-move nature to the narrower case of the political economy of regulation.

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