Alexander Pfaff

Alexander Pfaff


Director of Graduate Studies DGS), Environ Policy PhD program (UPEP)

Primary Appointment

School of Public Policy

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

He 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.

In The News


Panlasigui, S, Rico-Straffon, J, Pfaff, A, Swenson, J, and Loucks, C. "Impacts of certification, uncertified concessions, and protected areas on forest loss in Cameroon, 2000 to 2013." Biological Conservation 227 (November 2018): 160-166.

Pfaff, A, Velez, MA, Broad, K, Hamoudi, A, and Taddei, R. "Contracts versus trust for transfers of ecosystem services: Equity and efficiency in resource allocation and environmental provision." Water Resources and Economics (April 2018).

Tesfaw, AT, Pfaff, A, Golden Kroner, RE, Qin, S, Medeiros, R, and Mascia, MB. "Land-use and land-cover change shape the sustainability and impacts of protected areas." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 115, no. 9 (February 12, 2018): 2084-2089.

Kaczan, D, Pfaff, A, Rodriguez, L, and Shapiro-Garza, E. "Increasing the impact of collective incentives in payments for ecosystem services." Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 86 (November 2017): 48-67.

Herrera, D, Ellis, A, Fisher, B, Golden, CD, Johnson, K, Mulligan, M, Pfaff, A, Treuer, T, and Ricketts, TH. "Upstream watershed condition predicts rural children's health across 35 developing countries." Nature communications 8, no. 1 (October 9, 2017): 811-.

Recent Grants


PUBPOL 810: Microeconomics and Public Policy-Making (PUBPOL 810: Microeconomics and Public Policy-Making)
ENVIRON 593: Independent Studies and Projects (ENVIRON 593: Independent Studies and Projects)
ENVIRON 579S: Collective Action, Environment, and Development (ENVIRON 579S: Collective Action, Environment, and Development)
PUBPOL 303D: Microeconomic Policy Tools (PUBPOL 303D: Microeconomic Policy Tools)
PUBPOL 579S: Collective Action, Environment, and Development (PUBPOL 579S: Collective Action, Environment, and Development)

Contact Information

186 Rubenstein Hall, Box 90312
Durham, NC 27708


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