In this paper, the main socio-economic concepts and their applications in the study of soil degradation are reviewed under three broad headings: soil conservation as an input in agricultural production; topsoil as a natural resource somewhere between being renewable and nonrenewable; and the effects of dealing with common property resources. The treatment of soil conservation as an input has involved the demonstration of damage functions and a study of factors influencing the adoption of soil conservation. The study of renewability, or the lack of it, has involved the application of the concept of user costs, whilst the consideration of common property resources has concentrated on the need to minimise the divergences between social and private values. The literature is dominated by work on developed countries and also reveals the research on decision frameworks to be compartmentalised in terms of the three concepts.


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