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Protected areas and economic welfare: an impact evaluation of national parks on local workers' wages in Costa Rica

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 June 2014

Juan Robalino
Department of Economics, Universidad de Costa Rica and Environment for Development Initiative, CATIE, 7170, CATIE, Turrialba, Costa Rica. Tel: 2558-2522. E-mail:
Laura Villalobos
Department of Economics, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. E-mail:


The number of protected areas around the world has significantly increased. However, the effects of this policy on the wellbeing of local households are still under debate. Using pre-treatment characteristics and household surveys with highly disaggregated geographic reference, we explore how national parks affect the wages of local workers in Costa Rica. We use matching techniques to control for the endogenous location of parks. We find that parks' effects on wages are, on average, positive and significant, but the magnitudes vary. Wages close to parks are higher for local workers living near tourist entrances. However, there is no robust evidence of positive effects for those close to parks but far away from tourist entrances. With our individual-level data, we also show that the positive effects on local households might not be as large as suggested by previous studies that use aggregated level data containing both local and immigrant households.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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