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Deforestation and the Environmental Kuznets Curve: A Cross-National Investigation of Intervening Mechanisms

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Objective. We draw on ecological modernization theory and international political economy arguments to examine the sources of an environmental Kuznets curve (or EKC) that produces an inverted U-shaped rate of deforestation relative to economic development. Method. We use ordinary least squares regression with White's (1978) correction for possible heteroskedasticity to examine the rate of deforestation (1980–1995) in less developed countries. Results. Net of controls for initial forest stock and the quality of deforestation estimates, we find strong evidence for an EKC driven by (1) agglomeration effects linked to the level of urbanization, (2) rural-to-urban migration that partially offsets rural population pressure, (3) the growth of services-dominated urban economies, and (4) strong democratic states. We find little evidence that foreign debt or export dependence influence the deforestation rate. Conclusions. Although deforestation continues to pose pressing and potentially irreversible environmental risks, there is evidence of self-corrective ecological and modernization processes inherent in development that act to mitigate these risks.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: The Ohio State University

Publication date: March 1, 2002


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