We adopt a complementary methods approach to investigate whether and how heterogeneity in individual returns to a public good affects public good provision. We engage smallholder farmers in Sri Lanka in: a one-shot, framed, lab-in-the-field experiment, within which the farmers’ rates of return to the public good are exogenously varied; and a survey including a question about the farmers’ willingness to contribute time to the construction of a specific hypothetical public good, the return from which, for a given farmer, would depend on his or her circumstances in everyday life. In the former, we find weak evidence that heterogeneity in individual returns increases contributions. In the latter, we find that those facing a higher return would contribute more, but no evidence that heterogeneity has an effect, either way, at the group-level. We conclude that heterogeneity in returns does not explain why collective action remains a challenge in farming communities in developing countries. From a methodological point of view, we find that using complementary methods provides a more balanced account of communities’ potential engagement in public good provision.
Barr, A., Owens, T., & Perera, A. (2020). Collective management of an environmental threat when exposure is heterogeneous: A complementary methods approach. World Development, 135, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2020.105078