Income and Power Inequality as Determinants of Environmental and Health Outcomes: Some Findings


  • *Direct correspondence to Mariano Torras, Assistant Professor of Economics, Adelphi University, 1 South Ave., Garden City, NY 11530〈〉. I will share all data and coding information with those wishing to replicate the study. For comments on earlier versions of the article, I thank Michael Ash, James Boyce, Carol Heim, Neha Khanna, four anonymous reviewers, and participants in the History and Development Workshop of the Economics Department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. All errors are mine.


Objective. The article corrects for two main shortcomings in conventional economic analyses of environmental change. First is the overemphasis placed on income growth, and general disregard for other socioeconomic factors. Second is economists' often oversimplified view of the environment, where distinctions between environmental necessities such as potable water and so-called environmental luxuries are ignored. I test for the effectiveness of power inequality in explaining access to sanitation and safe water as well as their health consequences.

Methods. I develop a two-stage model seeking first to explain changes in the environmental variables and then population health. I employ ordinary least squares regressions on international cross-sectional data.

Results. Some dimensions of power inequality outperform per-capita income as possible determinants of population health. Neither power inequality nor income is clearly superior at explaining environmental quality. Conclusion. The study casts further doubt on the importance of per-capita income in explaining environmental and health outcomes.