Is income inequality harmful to national environmental performance?: cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses

Jaqueline Patricia De Oliveira Haupt

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

Past cross-national research has produced conflicting results and theories about the nature of the relationship between income inequality and national environmental performance. Conclusions about whether inequality is harmful to the environment are very sensitive to the sample of countries selected for analysis and to the measures of environmental performance used. This study extends previous research on the subject by comparing five national environmental performance indices (namely Ecological Footprint, Biocapacity, Emergy (embodied energy) Sustainability, Index Environmental Sustainability Index and Environmental Performance Index) and adopting two investigative approaches: cross-sectional and longitudinal. Up to 135 nations were analyzed in the cross-sectional approach in fixed reference years, while 68 countries in different stages of economic development were subjected to the longitudinal analysis for the 1961-2010 period (analyzing Ecological Footprint only). The effects of income per capita and population density were controlled for in the correlational analyses. In addition, path analysis models using trust as a behavioral mediator of the relationship between income inequality and environmental performance were tested. For most of the measures used, the cross-sectional results show that the greater the income inequality, the better the environmental performance. However, the longitudinal analyses reveal a more complex pattern of relationships: in some countries higher inequality predicts poorer environmental outcomes; in others the reverse is true. The models tested showed that trust is a potential predictor of national environmental performance outcomes; however, it does not appear to act as a mediator of the cross-national relationship between income inequality and environmental performance.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Western Australia
Award date21 Jun 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016

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