How are social preferences of youth related to their motivation to invest in environmental conservation (local public goods)?
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We have used simple incentivized social preference experiments for a sample of 2427 resource-poor rural youth that have formed natural-resource based youth business groups in their home communities. The experiments were combined with questions investigating their attitudes towards environmental conservation and willingness to contribute to conservation of local natural resources related to a compulsory labor contribution program. The paper investigates whether and how the revealed social preferences are associated with the attitudes towards environmental conservation and explores the spatial heterogeneity of conservation attitudes. It tests whether youth with altruistic and egalitarian social preferences are associated with stronger motivations for contributing to the compulsory conservation program than youth with selfish and spiteful preferences. Our study finds evidence in support of this hypothesis. We also find evidence of substantial spatial variation in the attitudes towards the environmental conservation program and much of this heterogeneity seems to be determined at the community (tabia) level which is the lowest administrative level and the level at which the compulsory conservation program is organized. In general, we find strong support for the compulsory conservation work program among the youth. 97% of the youth agree or strongly agree that the program is very important to protect the natural resource base and secure the future livelihoods in their community. On average the subjects were willing to contribute 19.4 days/year free labor to the program, which was close to the current requirement of 20 days/year.