Wealth determines how pollution-sensitive a place is
September 20, 2007

Economist Gary Becker observes that environmental pollution tends to follow a U-shaped curve along with economic development: As a place moves from poverty into a "development" stage, the amount of pollution it creates tends to rise -- as when people move from working on farms to working in factories. Subsequently, as the people become wealthier and move from "development" into wealth, they begin to demand a cleaner environment. Becker points out that this explains why China can be expected to pay more attention to water pollution in the near future, but will probably ignore issues like carbon-dioxide output since it's not an especially local issue.

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last revised September 2007