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Social-Ecological Systems Meta-Analysis Database: Theory

Economic heterogeneity and collective action

Variable relationship:

Unequal distribution of assets among a group of actors (Economic Heterogeneity) might increase prospects for successful collective action (Collective Action) if one or a small number of actors stand to obtain net benefits from collective action even if they pay the total costs of collective action (Olson 1965; Hardin 1982; Baland and Platteau 1999) and contribute to the sustainable use of the commons (Commons Condition Trend).

Scientific Field
Component Type(s)


VariableRoleRole ExplanationValue
Economic heterogeneityProximate independent variableHigh levels of economic heterogeneity mean that some individuals have more ability to pay for public goods. If those actors also stand to benefit from collective action then they may pay the full costs of public goods. High
Collective actionIntermediate outcomeLevels of collective action are likely to be higher in groups with higher levels of economic inequality as privileged actors may voluntary contribute more for the provision of public goods. High
Commons condition trendFinal outcomeAs a result of high levels of collective action the conditions of the commons are sustained. Remained the same or Improved

Related Theories

TheoryRelationshipCharacterizing Variables
Collective action and the commonscontains

Related Studies


Baland, Jean-Marie, and Jean-Philippe Platteau. 1999. "The Ambiguous Impact of Inequality on Local Resource Management."  World Development 27 (5):773-788.


Olson, Mancur. 1965. The Logic of Collective Action. Cambridge: Massachussetts: Harvard University Press.


Hardin, R. 1982. Collective Action. Baltimore, USA: The Johns Hopkins University Press.


Vedeld, Trond. 2000. "Village Politics: Heterogeneity, Leadership and Collective Action." Journal of Development Studies, 36(5), 105-34.