Location matters for pro-environmental behavior: a spatial Markov Chains approach to proximity effects in differentiated waste collection

We analyze data on differentiated waste collection (as a proxy of proenvironmental behaviors) in Italian provinces in the years 1999–2012.
We make use of a Markov Spatial Transition approach to model the dynamic of local transitions among different levels of environmental pro-sociality, and we find that behaviors, and in particular differentiated waste collecting habits, tend to be strongly influenced by proximity effects, so that provinces with good levels of environmental pro-sociality may positively influence nearby ones, and vice versa for provinces with poor levels of environmental pro-sociality.
We also show that in the long term separate clusters with markedly different levels of differentiated waste collection rates emerge.

Article by Massimiliano Agovino, Alessandro Crociata, Pier Luigi Sacco
Published in Annals of Regional Sciences (2016) 56:295–315

From the Conclusions (excerpt)
(…) In this paper, we have studied proximity effects at the provincial (NUTS-3) level in the Italian case in the socio-spatial dynamics of pro-environmental behaviors, in particular in terms of differentiated waste collection habits. We have found in particular that proximity matters, both in reinforcing positive pro-social dynamics among neighbors and in worsening negative ones, and that inertia plays a large role in making transition processes sticky. Our results suggest in particular that not only the level of pro-sociality of neighbors can influence a province’s pro-social attitude, but also that, due to the cumulative effect over time, the gap between areas with good pro-social attitudes and those with poor ones can widen in time, giving rise to structured clusters where good pro-sociality is
self-reinforced and bad pro-sociality perversely locks-in(…).

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