Paper recommendation: motivational crowding (out) in conservation

By Joern Fischer

I’d like to recommend the following paper: Rode J, Gómez-Baggethun E, Krause T. 2015. Motivation crowding by economic incentives in conservation policy: A review of the empirical evidence. Ecological Economics 2015 Sep; 117:270-282; DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2014.11.019

In a conservation context, “crowding” refers to effect that economic incentives to engage in conservation action have on people’s intrinsic motivation to engage in such action. Crowding in occurs when economic incentives further strengthen intrinsic motivation, while crowding out refers to a reduction in intrinsic motivation, following economic incentives.

This paper reviews the evidence generated to date of motivational crowding in a conservation context. This is very timely because many modern conservation schemes use economic incentives. Arguably, when conservationists routinely advocated stronger regulation in the 1980s, right now, they routinely argue for the use of economic instruments.

This article shows that calls for economic incentives need to be scrutinised carefully in any given system. Especially in cases where intrinsic motivation to engage in conservation action is high, economic incentives may do more harm than good (by crowding out intrinsic motivation).

This article also comments on the fact that most initiatives advocating economic incentives come from the Global North, while they are often applied in the Global South. Since the value systems in many of the affected communities can be expected to differ from those where the incentives were conceived of, it is critical to examine carefully whether economic incentives are in fact the right policy tool — before implementation of such schemes.

The issue of crowding out is not well understood among ecologists and conservationists, who as a group quite frequently advocate the use of economic incentives. This paper provides an authoritative review and entry point into this important field of study.

2 thoughts on “Paper recommendation: motivational crowding (out) in conservation

  1. An astute reader pointed out a typo in my post, which I have now fixed. The correct statement in the middle of the text should read: “… economic incentives may do more harm than good”. Thanks Laura!

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