Socioeconomic drivers of marine debris in North America.
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Economic development, coastal population growth, and expansion of tourism-related activities along coastlines have been the leading causes of marine debris pollution worldwide. While the problem of marine debris pollution has been increasingly recognized, there has been limited research on its socioeconomic drivers, primarily due to a paucity of consistent data on debris. The research described here utilizes newly available data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) on marine debris along eight coastal states of North America to examine the relationship of such debris pollution with socioeconomic variables including population, age, education, and tourism, as well as the mitigating effect of social capital on debris pollution. The results indicate that marine debris increases with income; however, at higher income levels the amount of pollution starts to decline, supporting the "Environmental Kuznets" hypothesis. We also find that population growth along coastlines contributes to greater debris accumulation. Our results further highlight the significant roles social capital and education play in curbing debris pollution. Understanding the socioeconomic drivers of marine debris is an important first step in informing abatement policy and allocation of resources by public agencies to address the marine pollution problem.