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Products: UHERO Working Papers

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Islands of Sustainability in Time and Space

We review the economics perspective on sustainable resource use and sustainable development. Under standard conditions, dynamic efficiency leads to sustainability of renewable resources but not the other way around. For the economic‐ecological system as a whole, dynamic efficiency and intergenerational equity similarly lead to sustainability, but ad hoc rules of sustainability may well lead to sacrifices in human welfare. We then address the challenges of extending economic sustainability to space as well as time and discuss the factors leading to optimal islands of preservation regarding renewable resources. Exogenous mandates based on moral imperatives such as self‐sufficiency and strong sustainability may result in missed win‐win opportunities that could improve both the economy and the environment, as well as increase social welfare across generations.


Efficient Management of Coastal Marine Nutrient Loads with Multiple Sources of Abatement Instruments

Pollution management based on marginal abatement costs is optimal only if those abatement costs are specified correctly. Using the example of nitrogen pollution in groundwater, we show that the marginal abatement cost function for any given pollution source can be directly derived from a social-welfare maximization problem, wherein controls include both abatement instruments and inputs to pollution-generating production of a good or service. The solution to the optimization model reveals that abatement instruments for each source should be used in order of least marginal abatement cost, and the sources should in turn abate in order of least cost. The least-cost result remains optimal, even when the abatement target is exogenously determined.

Working Paper

Health Inequality over the Life-Cycle

We consider the covariance structure of health. Agents report their health status on the basis of a latent health stock that is determined by permanent and transitory shocks, and time invariant fixed effects. At age 25, permanent shocks account for 5% to 10% of the variation in health. At age 60, this percentage rise to between 60% and 80%. We document a gradient in which permanent shocks matter less for college-educated people and for women.


Ordering Renewables: Groundwater, Recycling and Desalination


Optimal recycling of minerals can be thought of as an integral part of the theory of the mine. In this paper, we consider the role that wastewater recycling plays in the optimal extraction of groundwater, a renewable resource. We develop a two-sector dynamic optimization model to solve for the optimal trajectories of groundwater extraction and water recycling. For the case of spatially increasing recycling costs, recycled water serves as a supplemental resource in transition to the steady state. For constant unit recycling cost, recycled wastewater is eventually used as a sector-specific backstop for agricultural users, while desalination supplements household groundwater in the steady state. In both cases, recycling water increases welfare by shifting demand away from the aquifer, thus delaying implementation of costly desalination. The model provides guidance on when and how much to develop resource alternatives.


Indirect Inference Based on the Score

The Efficient Method of Moments (EMM) estimator popularized by Gallant and Tauchen (1996) is an indirect inference estimator based on the simulated auxiliary score evaluated at the sample estimate of the auxiliary parameters. We study an alternative estimator that uses the sample auxiliary score evaluated at the simulated binding function which maps the structural parameters of interest to the auxiliary parameters. We show that the alternative estimator has the same asymptotic properties as the EMM estimator but in finite samples behaves more like the distance-based indirect inference estimator of Gouri«eroux, Monfort and Renault (1993).


Payment schemes in random-termination experimental games

We consider payment schemes in experiments that model infinite-horizon games by using random termination. We compare paying subjects cumulatively for all periods of the game; with paying subjects for the last period only; with paying for one of the periods, chosen randomly. Theoretically, assuming expected utility maximization and risk neutrality, both the cumulative and the last period payment schemes induce preferences that are equivalent to maximizing the discounted sum of utilities. The last-period payment is also robust under different attitudes towards risk. In comparison, paying subjects for one of the periods chosen randomly creates a present-period bias. Experimentally, we find that the cumulative payment appears the best in inducing long-sighted behavior.


Is Our World Going to Get a Whole Lot Smaller?

The surge of oil prices in recent years has led to speculation that rising transportation costs could end the period of dramatic world trade growth--in the words of Rubin (2009), "...Your world is going to get a whole lot smaller." Using data from China's Customs Statistics, we examine the impact of oil prices on trade's sensitivity to distance. We find that higher oil prices increase trade's elasticity to distance, but that the economic effect is small. We also find that the effect is more pronounced for trade within global production networks, and less large for goods shipped by air. 

Published: Gangnes, B. and Van Assche, A., 2011, China’s Exports in a World of Increasing Oil Prices, The Multinational Business Review, 19(22).

Working Paper

Preferential Trade and Welfare with Differentiated Products

We consider analytically and numerically the welfare tradeoffs inherent in a preferential trade area (PTA) with products differentiated by region of origin. For a small open economy in such a setting, welfare gains are associated with higher trade volumes within the PTA. However, welfare losses are induced by declining tariff revenues on trade with nonmember countries. We show that both effects are concave, while one is a non-monotonic and the other a potentially non-monotonic function of pre-PTA partner trade shares. Therefore, the relationship between initial partner import shares and direct static welfare impacts of a PTA are theoretically ambiguous. This finding contrasts with conventional results in the homogeneous-goods case, whereby the smaller is the pre-agreement trade volume with a potential partner the more beneficial is a PTA.


The Impact of Civil Unions on Hawaii's Economy and Government

This report provides quantitative and qualitative measures of the impact of same-sex civil unions on the Hawai`i economy, Hawai`i businesses, and the State of Hawai`i’s budget. More specifically, we examine the effect of civil unions on tourism arrivals to Hawai`i; state government revenues and expenditures; employer provision of health insurance to civil union partners and their dependents; and the family with civil union partners. We conclude that the legalization of civil unions in Hawai`i will have only a very minimal impact on any aspect of Hawai`i’s economy and state government operations.

Working Paper

The Employment Effects of Fiscal Policy: How Costly Are ARRA Jobs

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was intended to stimulate the U.S. economy and to create jobs. But at what cost? In this paper, we discuss the range of potential benefits and costs associated with counter-cyclical fiscal policy. Benefits and costs may be social, macroeconomic, systemic, and budgetary. They may depend importantly on timing and implementation. There may be very different implications over the business cycle horizon and in the medium to long term. We use simulations of the IHS Global Insight macro-econometric model to evaluate some of these costs and benefits in the U.S. economy, looking specifically at the impact of the ARRA program and potential alternative policies.

Working Paper

Technical Progress in Transport and the Tourism Area Life Cycle

Richard Butler’s tourism area life cycle envisions tourism destinations to evolve in stages from exploration to rapid growth followed by slackening, stagnation, and even decline. The eventual slow-down in tourism growth is attributed to the destinations reaching their physical and social carrying capacities. This article examines the evolution of Hawaii as a tourism destination from 1922 to 2009. We demonstrate that tourism growth in Hawaii has declined but not because the destination has reached its carrying capacity but primarily because of the slowdown in technical progress in passenger air transportation and competition from newer destinations. We conclude that for destinations that depend on transportation improvements to attract tourists, technical progress in transport may provide a better explanation of the evolution of their destinations than their carrying capacities.

Working Paper


Optimal Provision and Finance of Ecosystem Services: the Case of Watershed Conservation and Groundwater Management

Payments for ecosystem services should be informed by how both the providing-resource and the downstream resource are managed. We develop an integrated model that jointly optimizes conservation investment in a watershed that recharges a downstream aquifer and groundwater extraction from the aquifer. Volumetric user-fees to finance watershed investment induce inefficient water use, inasmuch as conservation projects actually lower the optimal price of groundwater. We propose a lump-sum conservation surcharge that preserves efficient incentives and fully finances conservation investment. Inasmuch as proper watershed management counteracts the negative effects of water scarcity, it also serves as adaptation to climate change. When recharge is declining, the excess burden of non-optimal watershed management increases.

working paper


Why Hasn’t the US Economic Stimulus Been More Effective? The Debate on Tax and Expenditure Multipliers

Recent dissatisfaction with the impact of expenditure stimulus on economic activity in the United States, along with the results of academic research, have once again raised questions about the effectiveness of fiscal stimulus policies and about whether stimulus to a recessionary economy should be in the form of tax cuts or expenditure increases. This paper considers alternative methods for evaluating the impacts of stimulus policy strategies. We discuss conceptual challenges involved in effectiveness measurement, and we review alternative empirical approaches applied in recent studies. We then present our own estimates of policy multipliers based on simulations of the IHS Global Insight model of the US economy. Based on this review and analysis, we address the question of why recent US stimulus programs have not been more effective.

Published: Adams, F.G., Gangnes, B., 2010,  Why Hasn't the US Economic Stimulus Been More Effective? The Debate on Tax and Expenditure Multipliers. World Economics, 11 (4), 111-130.

working paper version

Optimal and Sustainable Groundwater Extraction

With the specter of climate change, groundwater scarcity looms as an increasingly critical issue worldwide. Minimizing the adverse effects of scarcity requires optimal as well as sustainable patterns of groundwater management. We review the many sustainable paths for groundwater extraction from a coastal aquifer and show how to find the particular sustainable path that is optimal. In some cases the optimal path converges to the maximum sustainable yield. For sufficiently convex extraction costs, the extraction path converges to an internal steady state above the level of maximum sustainable yield. We describe the challenges facing groundwater managers faced with multiple aquifers, the prospect of using recycled water, and the interdependence with watershed management. The integrated water management thus described results in less water scarcity and higher total welfare gains from groundwater use. The framework also can be applied to climate- change specifications about the frequency, duration, and intensity of precipitation by comparing before and after optimal management. For the case of South Oahu in Hawaii, the prospect of climate change increases the gains of integrated groundwater management.

working paper

Optimal Management of a Hawaiian Coastal Aquifer with Near-Shore Marine Ecological Interactions

We optimize groundwater management in the presence of marine consequences of submarine groundwater discharge (SGD). Concern for marine biota increases the optimal steady-state head level of the aquifer. The model is discussed in general terms for any coastal groundwater resource where SGD has a positive impact on valuable near-shore resources. Our application focuses of the Kona Coast of Hawai’i, where SGD is being actively studied and where both near-shore ecology and groundwater resources are serious socio-political issues. To incorporate the consequences of water extraction on nearshore resources, we impose a safe minimum standard for the quantity of SGD. Efficient pumping rates fluctuate according to various growth requirements on the keystone marine algae and different assumptions regarding recharge rates. Desalination is required under average recharge conditions and a strict minimum standard, and under low recharge conditions regardless of minimum standards of growth.

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