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

Shibly Shahrier, Koji Kotani, Tatsuyoshi Saijo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)957-967
JournalSustainability Science
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


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