A paper co-authored by Professor of Economics and Director of the Levitt Public Affairs Center Ann Owen and Associate Professors of Economics Julio Videras and Stephen Wu was published in the December issue of Review of Social Economy. “Identity and Environmentalism: The Influence of Community Characteristics” examines the influence of community characteristics on self-proclaimed environmentalism.
The authors find that the composition of a community affects the likelihood that a person claims to be a strong environmentalist, even after controlling for individual political leaning, socioeconomic characteristics, and pro-environment behaviors. Individuals are more likely to claim to be strong environmentalists if they live in areas where a larger share of the population has post-graduate degrees, if they live in heavily Democratic areas, or if they live in heavily Republican areas. These community effects occur only when individuals are predisposed to take on an environmental identity.
In the paper, Owen, Videras and Wu hypothesize that people identify as environmentalists in order to differentiate themselves from others in their community or in order to be similar to others in their community. This could be a reason why both heavily Republican and heavily Democratic areas produce this result.
The publication was the result of a survey done as part of the Levitt Center's sustainability program and was funded by a Levitt Center Sustainability program grant from the Blue Moon Fund.