Benefit-Cost Analysis of Environmental Projects: A Plethora of Systematic Biases
AbstractThere are many reasons to suspect that benefit-cost analysis applied to environmental policies will result in policy decisions that will reject those environmental policies. The important question, of course, is whether those rejections are based on proper science. The present paper explores sources of bias in the methods used to evaluate environmental policy in the United States, although most of the arguments translate immediately to decision-making in other countries. There are some “big picture” considerations that have gone unrecognized, and there are numerous more minor, yet cumulatively important, technical details that point to potentially large biases against acceptance on benefit-cost grounds of environmental policies that have true marginal benefits greater than true marginal costs, both in net present value terms. It is hoped that the issues raised here will improve future conduct of benefit-cost analyses of environmental policies.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 3144.
Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
benefit-cost analysis; environmental policy; decision making; choice behavior; public goods; willingness-to-pay; willingness-to-accept; precautionary principle; hedonic methods; sum of specific damages; health effects model; environmental perceptions;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
- D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
- D61 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Allocative Efficiency; Cost-Benefit Analysis
- D62 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Externalities
- D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
- D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
- H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
- H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
- H43 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Project Evaluation; Social Discount Rate
- Q20 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - General
- Q30 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - General
- Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects
- Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Horowitz, John K. & McConnell, Kenneth E., 2002. "A Review of WTA/WTP Studies," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 426-447, November.
- Hahn Robert, 2010. "Designing Smarter Regulation with Improved Benefit-Cost Analysis," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, De Gruyter, vol. 1(1), pages 1-19, July.
- Groves, Theodore & Ledyard, John O, 1977.
"Optimal Allocation of Public Goods: A Solution to the "Free Rider" Problem,"
Econometric Society, vol. 45(4), pages 783-809, May.
- Theodore Groves & John Ledyard, 1976. "Optimal Allocation of Public Goods: A Solution to the 'Free Rider Problem'," Discussion Papers 144, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
- Nicholas E. Flores & Philip E. Graves, 2008.
"Optimal Public Goods Provision: Implications of Endogenizing the Labor/Leisure Choice,"
University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 84(4), pages 701-707.
- Flores, Nicholas E. & Graves, Philip E., 2008. "Optimal public goods provision: implications of endogenizing the labor/leisure choice," MPRA Paper 19923, University Library of Munich, Germany.
- Blomquist, Glenn C & Berger, Mark C & Hoehn, John P, 1988. "New Estimates of Quality of Life in Urban Areas," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(1), pages 89-107, March.
- Paul R. Portney, 1994. "The Contingent Valuation Debate: Why Economists Should Care," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 3-17, Fall.
- Graves Philip E, 2009.
"A Note on the Valuation of Collective Goods: Overlooked Input Market Free Riding for Non-Individually Incrementable Goods,"
The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy,
De Gruyter, vol. 9(1), pages 1-20, February.
- Graves, Philip E., 2009. "A note on the valuation of collective goods: overlooked input market free riding for non-individually incrementable goods," MPRA Paper 19928, University Library of Munich, Germany.
- Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Experimental Tests of the Endowment Effect and the Coase Theorem," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1325-48, December.
- Roback, Jennifer, 1982. "Wages, Rents, and the Quality of Life," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(6), pages 1257-78, December.
- Hanemann, W Michael, 1991. "Willingness to Pay and Willingness to Accept: How Much Can They Differ?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(3), pages 635-47, June.
- Charles R. Plott & Kathryn Zeiler, 2007. "Exchange Asymmetries Incorrectly Interpreted as Evidence of Endowment Effect Theory and Prospect Theory?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(4), pages 1449-1466, September.
- Philip E. Graves, 2010.
"Appropriate Fiscal Policy over the Business Cycle: Proper Stimulus Policies Can Work,"
CESifo Working Paper Series
3160, CESifo Group Munich.
- Philip E. Graves, 2011. "Appropriate Fiscal Policy over the Business Cycle: Proper Stimulus Policies Can Work," The IUP Journal of Governance and Public Policy, IUP Publications, vol. 0(2), pages 26-32, June.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Julio Saavedra).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.