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Estimating different order polynomial logarithmic Environmental Kuznets curves

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This paper contributes to the Environmental literature by i) demonstrating that the estimated coefficients and the statistical significance of the non-leading terms in quadratic, cubic, and quartic logarithmic Environmental Kuznets Curve EKC specifications are arbitrary and should therefore not be used to choose the preferred specification; and ii) details a proposed general-to-specific type methodology for choosing the appropriate specifications when attempting to estimate higher order polynomials such as cubic and quartic logarithmic EKC relationships.

Testing for the existence and shape of the well-known EKC phenomenon is a hot topic in the environmental economics literature. The conventional approach widely employs quadratic and cubic specifications and more recently also the quartic specification, where the variables are in logarithmic form. However, it is important that researchers understand whether the estimated EKC coefficients, turning points, and elasticities are statistically acceptable, economically interpretable, and comparable. In addition, it is vital that researchers have a clear structured non-arbitrary methodology for determining the preferred specification and hence shape of the estimated EKC.

We therefore show mathematically and empirically the arbitrary nature of estimated non-leading coefficients in quadratic, cubic, and quartic logarithmic EKC specifications, being dependent upon the units of measurement chosen for the independent variables (e.g., dependent upon a rescaling of the variables such as moving from $m to $bn). Consequently, the practice followed in many previously papers, whereby the estimates of the non-leading terms are used in the decision to choose the preferred specification of an estimated EKC relationship, is incorrect and should not be followed since it potentially could lead to misleading conclusions. Instead, it should be based upon the sign and statistical significance of the estimated highest power leading terms, location of turning point(s), and the sign and statistical significance of the estimated elasticities. Furthermore, we suggest that researchers should follow a proposed general-to-specific type methodology for choosing the appropriate order of polynomials when attempting to estimate higher order polynomial logarithmic EKCs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 10 Mar 2021

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