Sustainability Science

, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 957–967 | Cite as

Intergenerational sustainability dilemma and the degree of capitalism in societies: a field experiment

  • Shibly Shahrier
  • Koji KotaniEmail author
  • Tatsuyoshi Saijo
Special Feature: Original Article Sustainability Science and Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Special Feature: Sustainability Science and Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals


Maintaining intergenerational sustainability is a minimum requirement for the existence of humankind, but it is now becoming one of the biggest challenges. Thus, it is necessary to understand what factors determine human preference and behavior for intergenerational sustainability. We hypothesize that ongoing modernization of competitive societies, which we call “capitalism,” affects individual social preferences and other factors of human nature, compromising intergenerational sustainability. To examine this hypothesis, we implement an intergenerational sustainability dilemma game with “imaginary future generation” (IFG) as a policy tool (to prime people for future generations) in two types of Bangladeshi fields: (1) urban (capitalistic) and (2) rural (less capitalistic) areas. The analysis reveals that the likelihood of choosing intergenerational sustainable options significantly increases with the number of prosocial people in one generation and a dummy variable of rural areas. Since a considerable portion of people in rural areas are prosocial, rural people are identified to choose intergenerational sustainable options much more frequently than urban people. Moreover, the IFG treatment is not effective for urban people, implying that some stronger devices shall be necessary in capitalistic societies. Overall, our findings demonstrate that as societies become more capitalistic, intergenerational sustainability shall be further compromised through the change in people’s social preferences and area-specific effects.


Intergenerational sustainability Capitalism Social preference Culture and evolution 



Imaginary future generation


Intergenerational sustainability dilemma game


Social value orientation



The authors thank anonymous referees, Makoto Kakinaka, Yoshio Kamijo, Shah Mostafa Khaled, Yutaka Kobayashi, Hiroaki Miyamoto, Yoshinori Nakagawa and Kenta Tanaka for their helpful comments, advice and supports. We are also grateful to the financial supports from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science as the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research A (24243028 and 17H00980), the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research B (16H03621), Grant-in-Aid for Challenging Exploratory Research (16K13354 and 16K13362), Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (Project Number 40410000) and Kochi University of Technology.


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Center for Future DesignKochi University of TechnologyKochiJapan
  2. 2.School of Economics and ManagementKochi University of TechnologyKochiJapan
  3. 3.Urban InstituteKyushu UniversityFukuokaJapan
  4. 4.College of BusinessRikkyo UniversityTokyoJapan
  5. 5.Research Institute for Humanity and NatureKyotoJapan

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