Alexander Pfaff

Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy

External Address: 
186 Rubenstein Hall, Box 90312, Durham, NC 27708
(919) 613-9240

Alex Pfaff is a Professor of Public Policy, Economics and Environment. Trained as an economist, he is focused on how the environment and natural resources, economic development, and a range of policies influence each other. Research accessible at AlexPfaff.comHe has studied: impacts on forests of protected areas, incentives, roads, railroads and concessions/certification (Brazil’s Amazon, Costa Rica, United States, Panama, Madagascar, Mexico, Peru, Cameroon, Bolivia); institutional responses to water shocks (Brazil’s Northeast, Colombia, Mexico); drivers of harmful exposures (groundwater arsenic in Bangladesh, stove emissions in China & Pakistan); and incentives for firms to self-audit and disclose (United States). This applied research aims to increase the chance that policies have their intended impacts upon not only the environment but also the people affected.


  • Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1995
  • B.A., Yale University 1988

Alpízar, F, Nordén, A, Pfaff, A, and Robalino, J. "Unintended Effects of Targeting an Environmental Rebate." Environmental and Resource Economics 67, no. 1 (May 2017): 181-202. Full Text

Alpízar, F, Nordén, A, Pfaff, A, and Robalino, J. "Spillovers from targeting of incentives: Exploring responses to being excluded." Journal of Economic Psychology 59 (April 2017): 87-98. Full Text

Pfaff, A, Santiago-Ávila, F, and Joppa, L. "Evolving Protected-Area Impacts in Mexico: Political Shifts as Suggested by Impact Evaluations." Forests 8, no. 1 (January 2017): 17-17. Full Text

Mandle, L, Bryant, BP, Ruckelshaus, M, Geneletti, D, Kiesecker, JM, and Pfaff, A. "Entry Points for Considering Ecosystem Services within Infrastructure Planning: How to Integrate Conservation with Development in Order to Aid Them Both." Conservation Letters 9, no. 3 (May 2016): 221-227. Full Text

Baylis, K, Honey-Rosés, J, Börner, J, Corbera, E, Ezzine-de-Blas, D, Ferraro, PJ, Lapeyre, R, Persson, UM, Pfaff, A, and Wunder, S. "Mainstreaming Impact Evaluation in Nature Conservation." Conservation Letters 9, no. 1 (January 2016): 58-64. Full Text

Pfaff, A, Vélez, MA, Ramos, PA, and Molina, A. "Framed field experiment on resource scarcity & extraction: Path-dependent generosity within sequential water appropriation." Ecological Economics 120 (December 2015): 416-429. Full Text

Pfaff, A, Robalino, J, Sandoval, C, and Herrera, D. "Protected area types, strategies and impacts in Brazil's Amazon: public protected area strategies do not yield a consistent ranking of protected area types by impact." Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences 370, no. 1681 (November 2015). Full Text

Blackman, A, Pfaff, A, and Robalino, J. "Paper park performance: Mexico's natural protected areas in the 1990s." Global Environmental Change 31 (March 2015): 50-61. Full Text Open Access Copy

Robalino, J, Sandoval, C, Barton, DN, Chacon, A, and Pfaff, A. "Evaluating interactions of forest conservation policies on avoided deforestation." PloS one 10, no. 4 (January 2015): e0124910-. Full Text Open Access Copy

Sills, EO, Herrera, D, Kirkpatrick, AJ, Brandão, A, Dickson, R, Hall, S, Pattanayak, S, Shoch, D, Vedoveto, M, Young, L, and Pfaff, A. "Estimating the Impacts of Local Policy Innovation: The Synthetic Control Method Applied to Tropical Deforestation." PloS one 10, no. 7 (January 2015): e0132590-. Full Text Open Access Copy


Pfaff, A, Barbieri, A, Ludewigs, T, Merry, F, Perz, S, and Reis, E. "Road Impacts in Brazilian Amazonia." In Amazonia and Global Change, 101-116. March 22, 2013. Full Text

Robalino, J, Pfaff, A, and Villalobos, L. "Assessing the impact of institutional design of payments for environmental services: The costa rican experience." In Ecosystem Services from Agriculture and Agroforestry: Measurement and Payment, 305-318. January 1, 2012. Full Text

Pfaff, A, and Robalino, J. "Human choices and policies' impacts on ecosystem services: Improving evaluations of payment and park effects on conservation and carbon." In Avoided Deforestation: Prospects for Mitigating Climate Change, 192-207. April 2, 2009. Full Text

Robalino, JA, Pfaff, A, and Sanchez-Azofeifa, A. "Estimating spatial interactions in deforestation decisions." In Biodiversity Economics, 92-114. January 1, 2007. Full Text

Chen, Y, van Geen, A, Graziano, J, Pfaff, A, Cheng, Z, Slavkovich, V, Islam, T, Parvez, F, and Ahsan, H. "The effectiveness of a multidisciplinary community-based mitigation program in reducing arsenic exposure in Araihazar, Bangladesh." June 1, 2006.

van Geen, A, Trevisani, M, Immel, J, Gelman, A, Schoenfeld, A, Pfaff, A, and Ahmed, KM. "Targeting low-arsenic aquifers for the installation of community wells in Bangladesh." March 26, 2006.

Sustainable Landscapes and Forest Enterprise Cluster Program in Brazil awarded by Department of Agriculture (Principal Investigator). 2010 to 2020

Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED2) awarded by Columbia University (Principal Investigator). 2010 to 2015

Forest Impacts of Certification awarded by World Wildlife Fund (Principal Investigator). 2014 to 2015

Conservation Policy Impacts in Tropical Dry Forest awarded by Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (Principal Investigator). 2007 to 2011

LBA Book Project awarded by Department of Agriculture (Principal Investigator). 2009 to 2010