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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

James K. Boyce

Second Advisor

Gerald A. Epstein

Third Advisor

Kevin P. Gallagher

Subject Categories

Growth and Development


This dissertation explores economic, environmental, and social aspects of Latin America and the Caribbean’s (LAC’s) halting steps away from commodity dependence (the “down escalator” envisioned by Hans Singer). It focuses on the most recent commodity boom (2003-2013), during which the region shifted back toward primary commodity production under a new policy framework aimed at limiting the environmental and social costs of this production while more broadly sharing its benefits through infrastructure, social spending, and closer oversight of foreign investors. This dissertation’s three essays focus on three international flows: trade, development finance, and investment.

The first essay weighs the environmental impact of LAC’s recent “China boom” in commodity exports. It finds that LAC primary commodity production is more environmentally intensive – in net greenhouse gas emissions and water use and contamination – than manufacturing. Applying these findings to the “China boom,” it finds that LAC-China exports are associated with significantly more carbon emissions and water use and contamination than other exports.

The second essay evaluates environmental and social protections covering development lending for infrastructure in the Andean nations of Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, which have experienced an infrastructure boom concurrent with the end of the commodity boom. This essay measures the environmental impact (using geospatial imaging of tree cover change) associated with the 84 infrastructure projects financed by international development institutions between 2000 and 2015 in these four countries. It finds that projects undertaken under policy regimes including guarantees of prior consultation with affected indigenous communities were associated with significantly less tree cover loss, showing the importance of social protections for environmental outcomes in the Andean region.

The third essay examines recent environmental and social reforms in Ecuador’s oil sector. It uses a mixed-methods approach to evaluate the extent to which new partnerships with Chinese state-owned oil investors gave Ecuador the needed policy space to implement this regulatory framework. It finds that while Chinese oil firms operating in Ecuador have avoided the environmental and social misconduct that typified some past oil FDI, the state has struggled to carry out its own social and environmental protections, endangering its new “high-road” approach to extraction.