Alexander Pfaff, Professor of Sanford School of Public Policy and Environmental Sciences and Policy and Economics and Faculty Research Scholar of DuPRI's Population Research Center and Faculty Network Member of The Energy Initiative

Alex Pfaff is a Professor of Public Policy, Economics and Environment. Trained as an economist, he is focused on how the environment and natural resources, economic development, and a range of policies influence each other.

Research accessible at

He has studied: impacts on forests of protected areas, incentives, roads, railroads and concessions/certification (Brazil’s Amazon, Costa Rica, United States, Panama, Madagascar, Mexico, Peru, Cameroon, Bolivia); institutional responses to water shocks (Brazil’s Northeast, Colombia, Mexico); drivers of harmful exposures (groundwater arsenic in Bangladesh, stove emissions in China & Pakistan); and incentives for firms to self-audit and disclose (United States). This applied research aims to increase the chance that policies have their intended impacts upon not only the environment but also the people affected.

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Teaching (Fall 2019):


Ph.D.Massachusetts Institute of Technology1995
B.A.Yale University1988

Development Economics

Acre • Arsenic • Carbon • Deforestation • Economics • Fuel • Indoor air pollution • Land use • Malaria • Policy • Protected areas • Toilets • Tropics • Uncertainty

Recent Publications

  1. Herrera, D; Pfaff, A; Robalino, J, Impacts of protected areas vary with the level of government: Comparing avoided deforestation across agencies in the Brazilian Amazon., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 116 no. 30 (July, 2019), pp. 14916-14925 [doi]  [abs]
  2. Naidoo, R; Gerkey, D; Hole, D; Pfaff, A; Ellis, AM; Golden, CD; Herrera, D; Johnson, K; Mulligan, M; Ricketts, TH; Fisher, B, Evaluating the impacts of protected areas on human well-being across the developing world., Science Advances, vol. 5 no. 4 (April, 2019), pp. eaav3006 [doi]  [abs]
  3. Fisher, B; Herrera, D; Adams, D; Fox, HE; Gallagher, L; Gerkey, D; Gill, D; Golden, CD; Hole, D; Johnson, K; Mulligan, M; Myers, SS; Naidoo, R; Pfaff, A; Rasolofoson, R; Selig, ER; Tickner, D; Treuer, T; Ricketts, T, Can nature deliver on the sustainable development goals?, The Lancet. Planetary Health, vol. 3 no. 3 (March, 2019), pp. e112-e113 [doi]
  4. Pfaff, A; Rodriguez, LA; Shapiro-Garza, E, Collective Local Payments for ecosystem services: New local PES between groups, sanctions, and prior watershed trust in Mexico, Water Resources and Economics (January, 2019) [doi]  [abs]
  5. Panlasigui, S; Jimena Rico-Straffon, ; Alexander Pfaff, ; Jennifer Swenson, ; Colby Loucks,, Impacts of certification, uncertified concessions, and protected areas on forest loss in Cameroon, 2000 to 2013, Biological Conservation, vol. 227 (November, 2018), pp. 160-166, Elsevier BV [doi]  [abs]