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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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. Díaz, S; Settele, J; Brondízio, ES; Ngo, HT; Agard, J; Arneth, A; Balvanera, P; Brauman, KA; Butchart, SHM; Chan, KMA; Garibaldi, LA; Ichii, K; Liu, J; Subramanian, SM; Midgley, GF; Miloslavich, P; Molnár, Z; Obura, D; Pfaff, A; Polasky, S; Purvis, A; Razzaque, J; Reyers, B; Chowdhury, RR; Shin, Y-J; Visseren-Hamakers, I; Willis, KJ; Zayas, CN, Pervasive human-driven decline of life on Earth points to the need for transformative change., Science (New York, N.Y.), vol. 366 no. 6471 (December, 2019) [doi]  [abs]
  2. Rodriguez, LA; Pfaff, A; Velez, MA, Graduated stringency within collective incentives for group environmental compliance: Building coordination in field-lab experiments with artisanal gold miners in Colombia, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, vol. 98 (November, 2019) [doi]  [abs]
  3. Pfaff, A; Velez, MA; Broad, K; Hamoudi, A; Taddei, R, Contracts versus trust for transfers of ecosystem services: Equity and efficiency in resource allocation and environmental provision, Water Resources and Economics, vol. 28 (October, 2019), Elsevier BV [doi]  [abs]
  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, vol. 28 (October, 2019) [doi]  [abs]
  5. 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]