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Contingent Valuation: From Dubious to Hopeless

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  • Jerry Hausman

Abstract

Approximately 20 years ago, Peter Diamond and I wrote an article for this journal analyzing contingent valuation methods. At that time Peter's view was that contingent valuation was hopeless, while I was dubious but somewhat more optimistic. But 20 years later, after millions of dollars of largely government-funded research, I have concluded that Peter's earlier position was correct and that contingent valuation is hopeless. In this paper, I selectively review the contingent valuation literature, focusing on empirical results. I find that three long-standing problems continue to exist: 1) hypothetical response bias that leads contingent valuation to overstatements of value; 2) large differences between willingness to pay and willingness to accept; and 3) the embedding problem which encompasses scope problems. The problems of embedding and scope are likely to be the most intractable. Indeed, I believe that respondents to contingent valuation surveys are often not responding out of stable or well-defined preferences, but are essentially inventing their answers on the fly, in a way which makes the resulting data useless for serious analysis. Finally, I offer a case study of a prominent contingent valuation study done by recognized experts in this approach, a study that should be only minimally affected by these concerns but in which the answers of respondents to the survey are implausible and inconsistent.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 26 (2012)
Issue (Month): 4 (Fall)
Pages: 43-56

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:26:y:2012:i:4:p:43-56

Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.26.4.43
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  1. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L., 1992. "Valuing public goods: The purchase of moral satisfaction," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 57-70, January.
  2. Heberlein, Thomas A. & Wilson, Matthew A. & Bishop, Richard C. & Schaeffer, Nora Cate, 2005. "Rethinking the scope test as a criterion for validity in contingent valuation," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 1-22, July.
  3. Johnston, Robert J., 2006. "Is hypothetical bias universal? Validating contingent valuation responses using a binding public referendum," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 52(1), pages 469-481, July.
  4. Hausman, Jerry A, 1981. "Exact Consumer's Surplus and Deadweight Loss," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 662-76, September.
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  1. > Environmental and Natural Resource Economics > Environmental Economics > Valuation > Contingent valuation method
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Cited by:
  1. Janet Currie & Lucas Davis & Michael Greenstone & Reed Walker, 2013. "Do Housing Prices Reflect Environmental Health Risks? Evidence From More Than 1600 Toxic Plant Openings And Closings," Working Papers 13-14, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  2. Petrolia, Daniel R. & Interis, Matthew G. & Hwang, Joonghyun, 2013. "America’s Wetland? A National Survey of Willingness to Pay for Restoration of Louisiana’s Coastal Wetlands," 2013 Annual Meeting, February 2-5, 2013, Orlando, Florida 142305, Southern Agricultural Economics Association.
  3. Stephane Luchini & Verity Watson, 2008. "Does respondent uncertainty explain framing effects in double bounded contingent valuation?," Working Papers halshs-00285861, HAL.
  4. Rogers, A. & Kragt, M.E. & Gibson, F. & Pannell, D. & Burton, M. & Petersen, L., 2013. "Is non-market valuation used in environmental policy making?," Working Papers 156197, University of Western Australia, School of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
  5. Caffey, Rex H. & Wang, Hua & Petrolia, Daniel R., 2014. "Trajectory economics: Assessing the flow of ecosystem services from coastal restoration," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 74-84.
  6. John C. Whitehead & O. Ashton Morgan & William L. Huth & Gregory S. Martin & Richard Sjolander, 2012. "Willingness-to-Pay for Oyster Consumption Mortality Risk Reductions," Working Papers 12-07, Department of Economics, Appalachian State University.
  7. Kiefer, Stephanie, 2014. "Are riding club members willing to pay or work for an overall quality improvement?," Discussion Papers of the Institute for Organisational Economics 1/2014, University of Münster, Institute for Organisational Economics.
  8. Andersson, Henrik & Risa Hole, Arne & Svensson, Mikael, 2014. "Valuation of small and multiple health risks: A critical analysis of SP data applied to food and water safety," Karlstad University Working Papers in Economics 11, Department of Economics, Karlstad University.
  9. John C. Whitehead & Douglas Noonan & Elizabeth Marquardt, 2012. "Criterion and Predictive Validity of Revealed and Stated Preference Data: The Case of Music Concert Demand," Working Papers 12-05, Department of Economics, Appalachian State University.
  10. Arik Levinson, 2013. "Happiness as a Public Policy Tool," Working Papers gueconwpa~13-13-04, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
  11. Hernández-Díaz, Alfredo G. & García Cobián, Emilio Carlos, 2014. "Elasticidad precio de la demanda y perfil de los usuarios de la parada “Pablo de Olavide" de Metro de Sevilla || Price Elasticity of Demand and Profile of “Pablo de Olavide" Metro Stop's," Revista de Métodos Cuantitativos para la Economía y la Empresa = Journal of Quantitative Methods for Economics and Business Administration, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Department of Quantitative Methods for Economics and Business Administration, vol. 17(1), pages 80-100, June.
  12. Timothy C. Haab & Matthew G. Interis & Daniel R. Petrolia & John C. Whitehead, 2013. "From Hopeless to Curious? Thoughts on Hausman’s “Dubious to Hopeless” Critique of Contingent Valuation," Working Papers 13-07, Department of Economics, Appalachian State University.
  13. Shi, Lijia & Gao, Zhifeng & Chen, Xuqi, 2014. "The cross-price effect on willingness-to-pay estimates in open-ended contingent valuation," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 13-21.
  14. Loomis, John B., 2014. "2013WAEA Keynote Address: Strategies for Overcoming Hypothetical Bias in Stated Preference Surveys," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 39(1), April.
  15. Baker, Rick & Ruting, Brad, 2014. "Environmental Policy Analysis: A Guide to Non‑Market Valuation," 2014 Conference (58th), February 4-7, 2014, Port Maquarie, Australia 165810, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
  16. Heinz Welsch & Susana Ferreira, 2014. "Environment, Well-Being, and Experienced Preference," Working Papers V-367-14, University of Oldenburg, Department of Economics, revised May 2014.
  17. John Whitehead & Melissa S. Weddell & Pete Groothuis, 2014. "Mitigating Hypothetical Bias in Stated Preference Data: Evidence from Sports Tourism," Working Papers 14-06, Department of Economics, Appalachian State University.
  18. Arik Levinson, 2013. "Happiness, Behavioral Economics, and Public Policy," NBER Working Papers 19329, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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