Information, Altruism, and Regulation: Evidence from ‘Spare the Air’ Using a Regression Discontinuity Approach

EPA Grant Number: R832848
Title: Information, Altruism, and Regulation: Evidence from ‘Spare the Air’ Using a Regression Discontinuity Approach
Investigators: Neidell, Matthew , Cutter, W. Bowman
Institution: Columbia University in the City of New York , University of California - Riverside
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: May 15, 2006 through May 14, 2008
Project Amount: $143,396
RFA: Environmental Behavior and Decisionmaking: Determining the Effectiveness of Environmental Information Disclosure and Provision (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Justice


The focus of this project is to assess whether an information advisory program that relies primarily on voluntary behavior can be effectively incorporated into a regulation policy for ground-level ozone. We will test if people respond to ‘Spare the Air’ (STA) advisories by altering their commuting behavior to reduce tailpipe emissions that lead to ozone formation. If we find evidence of changes in commuting behavior, we will assess if these responses impact environmental performance by reducing ozone concentrations.


We will develop a model of environmental regulation that incorporates individuals’ voluntary responses to information provision. To test our main hypotheses, we will use a quasi-experimental regression discontinuity design to obtain estimates of the causal effect of STAs on commuting behavior and ozone levels. Since STAs are issued only when ozone is forecasted to exceed a particular threshold, we will compare outcomes on days just above the threshold to outcomes on days just below the threshold. If other factors affecting commuting behavior and ozone levels are similar around the threshold, this design will control for all confounding factors, and any difference in outcomes can therefore be directly attributed to the STA advisory. This empirical strategy can be generalized to estimate the causal effect of various types of warnings and advisories that solicit voluntary responses.

Expected Results:

Although information programs that seek voluntary responses for reducing emissions appear to be an innovative approach for attaining air quality standards, little evidence is available to show their effectiveness. As agencies debate various approaches for improving air quality, our proposal aims to inform this debate and assist government agencies considering the adoption of such programs.

Supplemental Keywords:

media, ozone, mobile sources, public policy, transportation, analytical, California, social science, pollution prevention,, RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Air, air toxics, Economics, mobile sources, decision-making, Economics & Decision Making, Social Science, air quality standards, policy making, vehicle emissions, motor vehicle emissions, commuting, environmental decision making, ozone, decision making, ozone formation, environmental attitudes, environmental policy, environmental law, community participation, ambient ozone reduction, regulations, outreach and education, behavior change, regulatory impact, voluntary programs

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2006 Progress Report
  • Final