Crowdfunding vs. Taxes: Does the payment vehicle influence WTP for Ecosystem Services protection?

The effect of the payment vehicle (PV) on economic valuation estimates has been addressed since the early literature on stated preferences studies. Particularly, some studies have focused on willingness to pay (WTP) sensitivity to mandatory/collective vs. voluntary/individual PVs, by comparing tax increases or redistribution based on specific taxes with donation-like contributions. These two payment schemes may induce different types of strategic behavior and eventually free riding by the economic agents involved. We conducted a choice experiment through a face-to-face survey held in 2020 for a representative sample of the Portuguese population. We investigate the national population’s WTP to invest in oil spills’ prevention along the coastline of mainland Portugal to ensure the provision of four marine and coastal ecosystem services (MCES): (1) biodiversity conservation, (2) beach use, (3) coastal protection and (4) surf. We used a split-sample design to test for differences between the two PVs considered, a mandatory income tax and a voluntary contribution collected through a crowdfunding campaign. We estimate a mixed logit model (MXL) in WTP-space. Furthermore, we control for several sociodemographic characteristics to capture the influence of respondents’ heterogeneity on the elicited WTP, and to check the robustness of our results. We find that mean WTP estimates are positive and significant for all ES except for surf. Biodiversity conservation has the highest WTP estimate. The results obtained suggest that the lack of trust in institutions, fairness concerns and disbelief in policy consequentiality seem to be intrinsic to the Portuguese population, influencing WTP regardless of the PV. However, when comparing an extra income tax with a crowdfunding campaign, respondents have a lower preference for the status quo in this latter case. Therefore, our results highlight the importance of better understanding the role that the payment vehicle may play in funding ecosystem services’ conservation. This is important since how populations respond to incentives for sustainability purposes is crucial to ensure that the targets are met in a more efficient (or cost-effective) and equitable way.

Author: Maria Antonieta Cunha e Sá et al.
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Number of pages: 28
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