Publication: Man or Machine?: Environmental Consequences of Wage Driven Mechanization in Indian Agriculture
Behrer, A. Patrick
This paper uses an exogenous shock to wages from the world’s largest anti-poverty program to show that higher wages can lead to increased air pollution, likely by inducing farmers to shift into a labor-saving and mechanized production process. Using a difference-in-differences approach on the staggered roll-out of India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), combined with data on nearly 1 million fires, the paper shows that the frequency of agricultural fires increases by 21 percent after the shock. The increase in fires is concentrated in districts that appear more likely to mechanize the harvest. MNREGA did not lead to changes in area planted or tonnage produced in fire intensive crops. The estimates show that nationally, the shock increased the rate of particulate emissions from biomass burning by 30 to 50 percent. The results suggest that absent policies to correct for environmental externalities of mechanization at all stages of development, labor market shocks may lead to inefficient levels of mechanization.
“Behrer, A. Patrick. 2023. Man or Machine?: Environmental Consequences of Wage Driven Mechanization in Indian Agriculture. Policy Researrch Working Papers; 10376. © World Bank, Washington, DC. http://hdl.handle.net/10986/39606 License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.”