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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Freedom from Pollution? The State, the People, and the Environmental Kuznets Curve


We develop and estimate an econometric model of the relationship between several local and global air and water pollutants and economic development while allowing for critical aspects of the socio-political-economic regime of a State. We obtain empirical support for our hypothesis that democracy and its associated freedoms provide the conduit through which agents can exercise their preferences for environmental quality more effectively than under an autocratic regime, thus leading to decreased concentrations or emissions of pollution. However, additional factors such as income inequality, age distribution, and urbanization may mitigate or exacerbate the net effect of the type of political regime on pollution, depending on the underlying societal preferences and the weights assigned to those preferences by the State.

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