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Do parents counter-balance the carbon emissions of their children?

Nordström, Jonas LU ; Shogren, Jason F and Thunström, Linda (2020) In PLoS ONE 15(4). p.1-16
Abstract

It is well understood that adding to the population increases CO2 emissions. At the same time, having children is a transformative experience, such that it might profoundly change adult (i.e., parents') preferences and consumption. How it might change is, however, unknown. Depending on if becoming a parent makes a person "greener" or "browner," parents may either balance or exacerbate the added CO2 emissions from their children. Parents might think more about the future, compared to childless adults, including risks posed to their children from environmental events like climate change. But parenthood also adds needs and more intensive competition on your scarce time. Carbon-intensive goods can add convenience and help save time, e.g.,... (More)

It is well understood that adding to the population increases CO2 emissions. At the same time, having children is a transformative experience, such that it might profoundly change adult (i.e., parents') preferences and consumption. How it might change is, however, unknown. Depending on if becoming a parent makes a person "greener" or "browner," parents may either balance or exacerbate the added CO2 emissions from their children. Parents might think more about the future, compared to childless adults, including risks posed to their children from environmental events like climate change. But parenthood also adds needs and more intensive competition on your scarce time. Carbon-intensive goods can add convenience and help save time, e.g., driving may facilitate being in more places in one day, compared to public transportation or biking. Pre-prepared food that contain red meat may save time and satisfy more household preferences, relative to vegetarian food. We provide the first rigorous test of whether parents are greener or browner than other adults. We create a unique dataset by combining detailed micro data on household expenditures of all expenditure groups particularly important for CO2 emissions (transportation, food, and heating/electricity) with CO2 emissions, and compare emissions from Swedish adults with and without children. We find that parents emit more CO2 than childless adults. Only a small fraction of adults permanently choose not to have children, which means any meaningful self-selection into parenthood based on green preferences is unlikely. Our findings suggest that having children might increase CO2 emissions both by adding to the population and by increasing CO2 emissions from those choosing to have children.

(Less)
Abstract (Swedish)
It is well understood that adding to the population increases CO2 emissions. At the same time, having children is a transformative experience, such that it might profoundly change adult (i.e., parents’) preferences and consumption. How it might change is, however, unknown. Depending on if becoming a parent makes a person “greener” or “browner,” parents may either balance or exacerbate the added CO2 emissions from their children. Parents might think more about the future, compared to childless adults, including risks posed to their children from environmental events like climate change. But parenthood also adds needs and more intensive competition on your scarce time. Carbon-intensive goods can add convenience and help save time, e.g.,... (More)
It is well understood that adding to the population increases CO2 emissions. At the same time, having children is a transformative experience, such that it might profoundly change adult (i.e., parents’) preferences and consumption. How it might change is, however, unknown. Depending on if becoming a parent makes a person “greener” or “browner,” parents may either balance or exacerbate the added CO2 emissions from their children. Parents might think more about the future, compared to childless adults, including risks posed to their children from environmental events like climate change. But parenthood also adds needs and more intensive competition on your scarce time. Carbon-intensive goods can add convenience and help save time, e.g., driving may facilitate being in more places in one day, compared to public transportation or biking. Pre-prepared food that contain red meat may save time and satisfy more household preferences, relative to vegetarian food. We provide the first rigorous test of whether parents are greener or browner than other adults. We create a unique dataset by combining detailed micro data on household expenditures of all expenditure groups particularly important for CO2 emissions (transportation, food, and heating/electricity) with CO2 emissions, and compare emissions from Swedish adults with and without children. We find that parents emit more CO2 than childless adults. Only a small fraction of adults permanently choose not to have children, which means any meaningful self-selection into parenthood based on green preferences is unlikely. Our findings suggest that having children might increase CO2 emissions both by adding to the population and by increasing CO2 emissions from those choosing to have children. (Less)
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author
; and
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Population growth, CO2 emissions, Sustainable consumption, Time constraints, Food, Transportation, Population growth, CO2 emissions, Sustainable consumption, Time constraints, Food, Transportation
in
PLoS ONE
volume
15
issue
4
article number
e0231105
pages
16 pages
publisher
Public Library of Science (PLoS)
external identifiers
  • scopus:85083324425
  • pmid:32294098
ISSN
1932-6203
DOI
10.1371/journal.pone.0231105
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
79c3e9c7-c4c1-4e7f-8889-9ea780b57fdc
date added to LUP
2020-04-24 12:45:23
date last changed
2022-05-12 01:54:26
@article{79c3e9c7-c4c1-4e7f-8889-9ea780b57fdc,
  abstract     = {{<p>It is well understood that adding to the population increases CO2 emissions. At the same time, having children is a transformative experience, such that it might profoundly change adult (i.e., parents') preferences and consumption. How it might change is, however, unknown. Depending on if becoming a parent makes a person "greener" or "browner," parents may either balance or exacerbate the added CO2 emissions from their children. Parents might think more about the future, compared to childless adults, including risks posed to their children from environmental events like climate change. But parenthood also adds needs and more intensive competition on your scarce time. Carbon-intensive goods can add convenience and help save time, e.g., driving may facilitate being in more places in one day, compared to public transportation or biking. Pre-prepared food that contain red meat may save time and satisfy more household preferences, relative to vegetarian food. We provide the first rigorous test of whether parents are greener or browner than other adults. We create a unique dataset by combining detailed micro data on household expenditures of all expenditure groups particularly important for CO2 emissions (transportation, food, and heating/electricity) with CO2 emissions, and compare emissions from Swedish adults with and without children. We find that parents emit more CO2 than childless adults. Only a small fraction of adults permanently choose not to have children, which means any meaningful self-selection into parenthood based on green preferences is unlikely. Our findings suggest that having children might increase CO2 emissions both by adding to the population and by increasing CO2 emissions from those choosing to have children.</p>}},
  author       = {{Nordström, Jonas and Shogren, Jason F and Thunström, Linda}},
  issn         = {{1932-6203}},
  keywords     = {{Population growth; CO2 emissions; Sustainable consumption; Time constraints; Food; Transportation; Population growth; CO2 emissions; Sustainable consumption; Time constraints; Food; Transportation}},
  language     = {{eng}},
  month        = {{04}},
  number       = {{4}},
  pages        = {{1--16}},
  publisher    = {{Public Library of Science (PLoS)}},
  series       = {{PLoS ONE}},
  title        = {{Do parents counter-balance the carbon emissions of their children?}},
  url          = {{http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0231105}},
  doi          = {{10.1371/journal.pone.0231105}},
  volume       = {{15}},
  year         = {{2020}},
}