NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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James O'Brien

Gettysburg College
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Gettysburg, PA 17325
Tel: 717-337-6657

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Institutional Affiliation: Georgetown University

NBER Working Papers and Publications

January 2015Environmental Engel Curves
with Arik Levinson: w20914
Environmental Engel curves (EECs) plot the relationship between households’ incomes and the pollution embodied in the goods and services they consume. They provide a basis for estimating the degree to which observed environmental improvements, which come in part from changing consumption patterns, can be attributed to income growth. We calculate a set of annual EECs for the United States from 1984 to 2002, revealing three clear results. First, EECs are upward sloping: richer households are indirectly responsible for more pollution. Second, EECs are convex, with income elasticities of less than one. Third, EECs have been shifting down over time: at every level of income households are responsible for decreasing amounts of pollution. We show that even without changes to production techniques...
 
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