Environment and Development Economics

Research Article

Poverty, development, and environment


a1 Department of Economics and Finance, University of Wyoming, 1000 E University Ave, Laramie, WY 82071, USA. Email: ebarbier@uwyo.edu


This paper examines the complex relationship that exists between poverty and natural resource degradation in developing countries. The rural poor are often concentrated in fragile, or less favorable, environmental areas. Consequently, their livelihoods can be intimately dependent on natural resource use and ecosystem services. The relationship between poverty and natural resource degradation may depend on a complex range of choices and tradeoffs available to the poor, which in the absence of capital, labor, and land markets, is affected by their access to outside employment and any natural resource endowments. The paper develops a poverty–environment model to characterize some of these linkages, and concludes by discussing policy implications and avenues for further research.

(Received April 28 2010)

(Revised July 07 2010)

(Accepted August 06 2010)

(Online publication October 05 2010)


I am grateful to the comments and suggestions of Randy Bluffstone, Jill Caviglia-Harris, Partha Dasgupta, Ramón López, Urvashi Narain, Jerry Shively and Klaas van 't Veld.