Protected areas reduced poverty in Costa Rica and Thailand
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As global efforts to protect ecosystems expand, the socioeconomic impact of protected areas on neighboring human communities continues to be a source of intense debate. The debate persists because previous studies do not directly measure socioeconomic outcomes and do not use appropriate comparison groups to account for potential confounders. We illustrate an approach using comprehensive national datasets and quasi-experimental matching methods. We estimate impacts of protected area systems on poverty in Costa Rica and Thailand and find that although communities near protected areas are indeed substantially poorer than national averages, an analysis based on comparison with appropriate controls does not support the hypothesis that these differences can be attributed to protected areas. In contrast, the results indicate that the net impact of ecosystem protection was to alleviate poverty.
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