Hannes Weber, Jennifer Dabbs Sciubba
The Effect of Population Growth on the Environment: Evidence from European Regions

European Journal of Population, 2019: 35, Heft 2, S. 379-402
ISSN: 0168-6577 (print); 1572-9885 (online)

There is a long-standing dispute on the extent to which population growth causes environmental degradation. Most studies on this link have so far analyzed cross-country data, finding contradictory results. However, these country-level analyses suffer from the high level of dissimilarity between world regions and strong collinearity of population growth, income, and other factors. We argue that regional-level analyses can provide more robust evidence, isolating the population effect from national particularities such as policies or culture. We compile a dataset of 1062 regions within 22 European countries and analyze the effect from population growth on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and urban land use change between 1990 and 2006. Data are analyzed using panel regressions, spatial econometric models, and propensity score matching where regions with high population growth are matched to otherwise highly similar regions exhibiting significantly less growth. We find a considerable effect from regional population growth on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and urban land use increase in Western Europe. By contrast, in the new member states in the East, other factors appear more important.