Bans vs. Fees: Disposable Carryout Bag Policies and Bag Usage
(Applied Economic Perspectives and Policywith Sofia B. Villas-Boas)
Abstract: Using observational data on consumer carryout bag usage, we measure the effects of disposable bag policies on disposable and reusable bag demand. Our results show that plastic bag bans coupled with paper bag fees decrease total disposable bag demand but lead to significant increases in paper bag consumption. We compare our results to a study on bag fees and find that both policies lead to similar increases in reusable bag usage. However, the success of bans versus fees in discouraging disposable bag usage is contingent upon the types and prices of bags that stores choose to sell in lieu of disposable plastic.

Abstract: Policymakers are pursing initiatives to increase food access for low-income households. However, due in part to previous data deficiencies, there is still little evidence supporting the assumption that improved food store access will alter dietary habits, especially for the poorest of U.S. households. This article uses the new National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to estimate consumer food outlet choices as a function of outlet type and household attributes in a multinomial mixed logit. In particular, we allow for the composition of the local retail food environment to play a role in explaining household store choice decisions and food acquisition patterns. We find that (1) households are willing to pay more per week in distance traveled to shop at Superstores, Supermarkets, and Fast Food outlets than at Farmers Markets and smaller Grocery Stores, and (2) willingness to pay is heterogeneous across income group, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation, and other household and food environment characteristics. Our results imply that policymakers should consider incentivizing the building of certain outlet types over others, and that Healthy Food Financing Initiatives should be designed to fit the sociodemographic composition of each identified low-income, low-access area in question.

(Applied Economic Perspectives and Policywith David Zilberman)
Abstract: This article provides insights to the state of the literature on the economics of drip irrigation adoption and diffusion. Our literature review finds the methodological approaches to study diffusion—conceptual modeling, empirical analysis, and historical narratives—are complementary, yet, historical analyses have been underemphasized. To address this gap, we conduct a historical analysis of the diffusion of drip irrigation in California. Our 45 year narrative highlights that successful adoption of drip to diverse crops and locations required (1) coevolution of the technology and complementary production processes and (2) joint effort by private and public experts at the local level.

(Chapter in forthcoming NBER book "Understanding Productivity Growth in Agriculture", editor Wolfram Schlenkerwith Hannah Krovetz and Sofia B. Villas-Boas)
Abstract: In the context of recent California drought years, we investigate empirically whether consumers are willing to pay for more efficient water usage in the production of four California agricultural products. We implement an internet survey choice experiment for avocados, almonds, lettuce, and tomatoes to elicit consumer valuation for water efficiency via revealed choices. We estimate a model of consumer choices where a product is defined as a bundle of three attributes: price, production method (conventional or organic), and water usage (average or efficient). Varying the attribute space presented to consumers in the experimental choice design gives us the data variation to estimate a discrete choice model—both conditional logit specifications and random coefficient mixed logit specifications. We find that on average consumers have a significant positive marginal utility towards water-efficiency and estimate that there is an implied positive willingness to pay (WTP) of about 12 cents per gallon of water saved on average. Moreover, informing consumers about the drought severity increases the WTP for low water footprint options, but not significantly. We find that there is heterogeneity in the WTP along respondents’ education, race, and also with respect to stated environmental concern. Our findings have policy implications in that they suggest there to be a market based potential to nudge consumers who want to decrease their water footprint and follow a more sustainable diet, namely, by revealing information on the product’s water footprint in a form of a label. Simulations of removing low water footprint labels from the choice set attributes imply significant consumer surplus losses, especially for the more educated, white, and more environmentally concerned respondents.