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

Abstract

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.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    When all of the generations from the 1st to the 4th choose option A, then the 5th generation will face the game in which she receives 0 and \(-300\) by choosing A and B, respectively. When the 5th or 6th generations face the games in which options A and B are associated with 0 and/or some negative payoffs, the generation members can refund themselves equally from their initial endowment of 300 to make the individual payoff at least zero.

  2. 2.

    However, our data reveal that in the rural areas, almost 100% of the households engage in subsistence farming for their self-consumption in addition to their main occupations. A significant portion of the wage-labor occupations work in agriculture. Moreover, the occupational category of business and service mainly includes small-scale businesses related to agriculture and only a few service people working in a service sector are found. Overall, people in rural areas are highly dependent on farming and agriculture for their livelihood.

Abbreviations

IFG:

Imaginary future generation

ISDG:

Intergenerational sustainability dilemma game

SVO:

Social value orientation

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Acknowledgements

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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Correspondence to Koji Kotani.

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Handled by Shunsuke Managi, Tohoku University, Japan.

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Shahrier, S., Kotani, K. & Saijo, T. Intergenerational sustainability dilemma and the degree of capitalism in societies: a field experiment. Sustain Sci 12, 957–967 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-017-0447-z

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Keywords

  • Intergenerational sustainability
  • Capitalism
  • Social preference
  • Culture and evolution