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Motivational Crowding in Sustainable Development Interventions



We used a quasi-experimental research design to study the extent of motivational crowding in a recent sustainable development intervention in northern India. The project provided participants with both private and communal material benefits to enhance their incomes, and environmental and social information to inculcate pro-environmental motivations. We compared changes in reported motivations of participants for conserving forest resources, before and after project implementation, with changes in reported motivations of matched nonparticipants. We found that villagers who received private economic benefits were more likely to change from an environmental to an economic motivation for forest protection, whereas those who engaged in communal activities related to the project were less likely to change from an environmental to an economic motivation. These results, which indicate a substantial but conditional degree of motivational crowding, clarify the relationships between institutional change, incentives, and motivations and have important implications for the design of sustainable development interventions.


Corresponding author

Arun Agrawal is Professor, School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1041, 734-647-5948 (phone) (
Ashwini Chhatre is Senior Research Fellow, Indian School of Business, Visiting Professor, Economics and Public Policy, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, +91 40 2318 7134 (phone) (
Elisabeth R. Gerber (corresponding author) is Jack L. Walker, Jr. Professor of Public Policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, 734-647-4004 (phone) (


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