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


Herrera, Diego, Alexander Pfaff, and Juan Robalino. “Impacts of protected areas vary with the level of government: Comparing avoided deforestation across agencies in the Brazilian Amazon..” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 116, no. 30 (July 8, 2019): 14916–25.
Naidoo, R., D. Gerkey, D. Hole, A. Pfaff, A. M. Ellis, C. D. Golden, D. Herrera, et al. “Evaluating the impacts of protected areas on human well-being across the developing world..” Science Advances 5, no. 4 (April 3, 2019).
Fisher, Brendan, Diego Herrera, Diane Adams, Helen E. Fox, Louise Gallagher, Drew Gerkey, David Gill, et al. “Can nature deliver on the sustainable development goals?.” The Lancet. Planetary Health 3, no. 3 (March 2019): e112–13.
Pfaff, A., L. A. Rodriguez, and E. Shapiro-Garza. “Collective Local Payments for ecosystem services: New local PES between groups, sanctions, and prior watershed trust in Mexico.” Water Resources and Economics, January 1, 2019.
Panlasigui, Stephanie, Stephanie Jimena Rico-Straffon, Stephanie Alexander Pfaff, Stephanie Jennifer Swenson, and Stephanie Colby Loucks. “Impacts of certification, uncertified concessions, and protected areas on forest loss in Cameroon, 2000 to 2013.” Biological Conservation. 227 (November 2018): 160–66.

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 304: Economics of the Public Sector (PUBPOL 304: Economics of the Public Sector)
PUBPOL 303D: Microeconomic Policy Tools (PUBPOL 303D: Microeconomic Policy Tools)

Contact Information

Box 90312
Durham, NC 27708
284 Rubenstein Hall, Box 90312
Durham, NC 27708


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