Ranking Distributions of Environmental Outcomes Across Population Groups
RFF Academic Seminar
Economist, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Abstract
This paper proposes a measure, based on the Kolm-Pollack income inequality index, for evaluating distributional impacts of alternative environmental policies across population groups defined by demographic variables such as race, ethnicity, or income. The rich literature devoted to the use of inequality indices for analyzing income distributions within and across countries provides a natural methodological toolbox for examining the distributional effects of environmental outcomes. We show, however, that the most commonly used income inequality indices (e.g., the Atkinson index) have theoretical properties that make them inappropriate for analyzing “bads,” like pollution, as opposed to “goods” like income. In particular, simply replacing income with a bad outcome implies an underlying social welfare function that is decreasing in individual utility. In contrast, we show how the rarely used Kolm-Pollack index is particularly well-suited for ranking distributions of adverse health and environmental outcomes. We provide illustrations of its potential use in the context of emissions trading, vehicle emissions, and indoor air quality.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
12:00 - 1:30 p.m.
Lunch will be provided.
7th Floor Conference Room
1616 P St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
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