IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Contingent Valuation: A Practical Alternative When Prices Aren't Available

  • Richard T. Carson

A person may be willing to make an economic tradeoff to assure that a wilderness area or scenic resource is protected even if neither that person nor (perhaps) anyone else will actually visit this area. This tradeoff is commonly labeled "passive use value." Contingent valuation studies ask questions that help to reveal the monetary tradeoff each person would make concerning the value of goods or services. Such surveys are a practical alternative approach for eliciting the value of public goods, including those with passive use considerations. First I discuss the Exxon Valdez oil spill of March 1989, focusing on why it is important to measure monetary tradeoffs for goods where passive use considerations loom large. Although discussions of contingent valuation often focus on whether the method is sufficiently reliable for use in assessing natural resource damages in lawsuits, it is important to remember that most estimates from contingent valuation studies are used in benefit–cost assessments, not natural resource damage assessments. Those working on benefit–cost analysis have long recognized that goods and impacts that cannot be quantified are valued, implicitly, by giving them a limitless value when government regulations preclude certain activities, or giving them a value of zero by leaving certain consequences out of the analysis. Contingent valuation offers a practical alternative for reducing the use of either of these extreme choices. I put forward an affirmative case for contingent valuation and address a number of the concerns that have arisen.

If 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.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

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

Volume (Year): 26 (2012)
Issue (Month): 4 (Fall)
Pages: 27-42

in new window

Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:26:y:2012:i:4:p:27-42
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.26.4.27
Contact details of provider: Web page:

More information through EDIRC

Order Information: Web:

References listed on IDEAS
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.:

as in new window
  1. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 4.
  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. Rollins, Kimberly & Lyke, Audrey, 1998. "The Case for Diminishing Marginal Existence Values," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 324-344, November.
  4. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-91, March.
  5. Flores, Nicholas E. & Carson, Richard T., 1995. "The Relationship Between the Income Elasticities of Demand and Willingness to Pay," 1995 Conference (39th), February 14-16, 1995, Perth, Australia 148795, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
  6. Claudine de Meijer & Werner Brouwer & Marc Koopmanschap & Bernard van den Berg & Job van Exel, 2010. "The value of informal care-a further investigation of the feasibility of contingent valuation in informal caregivers," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(7), pages 755-771.
  7. Richard T. Carson & Nicholas E. Flores & Kerry M. Martin & Jennifer L. Wright, 1996. "Contingent Valuation and Revealed Preference Methodologies: Comparing the Estimates for Quasi-Public Goods," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 72(1), pages 80-99.
  8. 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.
  9. Smith, V. Kerry & Osborne, Laura L., 1996. "Do Contingent Valuation Estimates Pass a "Scope" Test? A Meta-analysis," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 287-301, November.
  10. Carson, Richard & Flores, Nicholas E. & Hanemann, W. Michael, 1998. "Sequencing and Valuing Public Goods," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 314-323, November.
  11. Ikuho Kochi & Bryan Hubbell & Randall Kramer, 2006. "An Empirical Bayes Approach to Combining and Comparing Estimates of the Value of a Statistical Life for Environmental Policy Analysis," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 34(3), pages 385-406, July.
  12. 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.
  13. Corso, Phaedra S & Hammitt, James K & Graham, John D, 2001. " Valuing Mortality-Risk Reduction: Using Visual Aids to Improve the Validity of Contingent Valuation," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 23(2), pages 165-84, September.
  14. S. V. Ciriacy-Wantrup, 1947. "Capital Returns from Soil-Conservation Practices," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 29(4_Part_II), pages 1181-1196.
  15. Bateman, Ian J, et al, 1997. "Does Part-Whole Bias Exist? An Experimental Investigation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(441), pages 322-32, March.
  16. Richard Carson & Robert Mitchell & Michael Hanemann & Raymond Kopp & Stanley Presser & Paul Ruud, 2003. "Contingent Valuation and Lost Passive Use: Damages from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 25(3), pages 257-286, July.
  17. Poe, Gregory L. & Vossler, Christian A., 2009. "Consequentiality and contingent values: an emerging paradigm," MPRA Paper 38864, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  18. Hausman, Jerry A. & Leonard, Gregory K. & McFadden, Daniel, 1995. "A utility-consistent, combined discrete choice and count data model Assessing recreational use losses due to natural resource damage," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 1-30, January.
  19. Jiang, Yi & Jin, Leshan & Lin, Tun, 2011. "Higher water tariffs for less river pollution--Evidence from the Min River and Fuzhou City in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 183-195, June.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:26:y:2012:i:4:p:27-42. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jane Voros)

or (Michael P. Albert)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.