Chair of Economic Theory

Break-down of pro-social behavior in the wake of anticipated displacement? Experimental evidence from three sea-level rise hotspots

  • Date:

    May 16th, 2019

  • Author:

    Philipps-Universität Marburg

  • Speaker:

    Björn Vollan

  • Abstract:

    In this paper, we study how the prospect of displacement affects pro-social behavior in three of the most exposed regions to the impact of flooding and erosion: atoll islands in Solomon Islands and coastal regions in Bangladesh and Vietnam. To study these effects, we combine incentivized lab-in-the-field experiments with 412 Islanders and survey experiments with 203 people from coastal regions in Bangladesh and 320 people from the Mekong Delta. The main treatment variation is induced by priming videos about the impacts of rising sea levels, to study the causal effects of anticipated displacement on preferences in a between-subject design. Additionally, we correlate exposure to sea-level rise with pro-social preferences. We find that the information video increases pro-social behavior on average, while there is no significant difference between more and less exposed people. The average treatment effect masks substantial heterogeneity and variability across contexts. Regarding the mechanisms, we can, first, exclude the rational economic channel that people apply backward reasoning, as Islanders trust as much in one-shot interactions as in repeated ones; second, people that stronger identify and depend on the place they are living at react stronger to the treatment; third, negative emotions play an important mediating role in dampening the positive direct treatment effect on pro-social preferences and fourth, the experimental manipulation of the relocation belief, group vs individual resettlement, has no effect on the emotional response nor are pro-social preferences affected differently. Stated preferences on how to best adapt to impacts highlight substantial variability across regions but show that moving away is by far the least-preferred strategy.

  • Place:

    building 20.30/

    room 0.016