Dynamic Relationships between Social Norms and Pro-Environmental Behaviour: Evidence from Household Recycling

43 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2017 Last revised: 15 Feb 2018

See all articles by Joel Huber

Joel Huber

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

W. Kip Viscusi

Vanderbilt University - Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics; Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management; Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics

Jason Bell

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Date Written: November 11, 2017

Abstract

Social norms are strongly associated with pro-environmental behaviours, but the evolution and dynamic effects of norms are less well understood. This article builds on the distinction of norms being descriptive, characterizing what people actually do, or injunctive, characterizing what people should do. It identifies four categories of norms with the further distinction of whether the norms arise from personal beliefs or actions or from the behaviour or judgments of others. The analysis uses five years of longitudinal U.S. data that tracks changes in household recycling and controls for household characteristics and differences in state recycling laws. The results extend previous research findings by showing that personal norms exhibit cascading dynamics in which norms encourage later changes in recycling behaviour, while recycling behaviours encourage later changes in personal norms. This mutual support between norms and behaviours implies that societal actions encouraging change in either personal norms or behaviours will support growth in the other. Recognizing this interdependence can assist in the effective utilization of social norms as a behavioural policy instrument.

Keywords: recycling, social norms, environmental behaviour, injunctive norms, descriptive norms, nudges, dynamic relationships

JEL Classification: K32, Q53, R11

Suggested Citation

Huber, Joel and Viscusi, W. Kip and Bell, Jason, Dynamic Relationships between Social Norms and Pro-Environmental Behaviour: Evidence from Household Recycling (November 11, 2017). Vanderbilt Law Research Paper No. 17-61. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3084815 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3084815

Joel Huber

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States
919-660-7785 (Phone)

W. Kip Viscusi (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-343-7715 (Phone)
615-322-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics

Box 1819 Station B
Nashville, TN 37235
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management

401 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

Jason Bell

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States

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