Economic Growth and the Environment
Using data assembled by the Global Environmental Monitoring System we examine the reduced-form relationship between various environmental indicators and the level of a country's per capita income. Our study covers four types of indicators: concentrations of urban air pollution; measures of the state of the oxygen regime in river basins; concentrations of fecal contaminants in river basins; and concentrations of heavy metals in river basins. We find no evidence that environmental quality deteriorates steadily with economic growth. Rather, for most indicators, economic growth brings an initial phase of deterioration followed by a subsequent phase of improvement. The turning points for the different pollutants vary, but in most cases they come before a country reaches a per capita income of $8,000.
Published: Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 110, 1995, pp. 353-378