Adverse Selection in Reverse Auctions for Ecosystem Services

Michael A. Arnold, Joshua M. Duke and Kent D. Messer


This paper examines how auctions for ecosystem services introduce adverse selection, limiting cost-effectiveness. Induced-value experiments test theory and examine the extent of adverse selection in these markets. In comparison to the baseline of either doing nothing or the optimality of an externality-correcting tax, a discriminatory reverse auction and two screening contracts are tested. In limited budget situations, the auction achieved the lowest social surplus, while screening contracts that rely upon the government observing the development value yield the highest relative social surplus. These results are important because recent environmental policy trends are focused on expanding fiscally costly reverse auctions. (JEL Q57, Q58)

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