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Improving multi-site benefit functions via Bayesian model averaging: A new approach to benefit transfer

  • Leon-Gonzalez, Roberto
  • Scarpa, Riccardo

A benefit function transfer obtains estimates of willingness-to-pay (WTP) for the evaluation of a given policy at a site by combining existing information from different study sites. This has the advantage that more efficient estimates are obtained, but it relies on the assumption that the heterogeneity between sites is appropriately captured in the benefit transfer model. A more expensive alternative to estimate WTP is to analyze only data from the policy site in question while ignoring information from other sites. We make use of the fact that these two choices can be viewed as a model selection problem and extend the set of models to allow for the hypothesis that the benefit function is only applicable to a subset of sites. We show how Bayesian model averaging (BMA) techniques can be used to optimally combine information from all models. The Bayesian algorithm searches for the set of sites that can form the basis for estimating a benefit function and reveals whether such information can be transferred to new sites for which only a small data set is available. We illustrate the method with a sample of 42 forests from U.K. and Ireland. We find that BMA benefit function transfer produces reliable estimates and can increase about 8 times the information content of a small sample when the forest is 'poolable'.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Environmental Economics and Management.

Volume (Year): 56 (2008)
Issue (Month): 1 (July)
Pages: 50-68

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeeman:v:56:y:2008:i:1:p:50-68
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  1. Kirchhoff, Stefanie & Colby, Bonnie G. & LaFrance, Jeffrey T., 1997. "Evaluating the Performance of Benefit Transfer: An Empirical Inquiry," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 75-93, May.
  2. Fernandez, Carmen & Ley, Eduardo & Steel, Mark F. J., 2001. "Benchmark priors for Bayesian model averaging," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 100(2), pages 381-427, February.
  3. Carmen Fernandez & Carmelo J. Leon & Mark F.J. Steel & Francisco Jose Vazquez-Polo, 2004. "Bayesian Analysis of Interval Data Contingent Valuation Models and Pricing Policies," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 22, pages 431-442, October.
  4. C. J. Leon & F. J. Vazquez-Polo & N. Guerra & P. Riera, 2002. "A Bayesian model for benefit transfer: application to national parks in Spain," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(6), pages 749-757.
  5. Hellerstein, Daniel & Feather, Peter, 1997. "Calibrating Benefit Function Transfer to Assess the Conservation Reserve Program," MPRA Paper 25357, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. Bauwens, Luc & Lubrano, Michel & Richard, Jean-Francois, 2000. "Bayesian Inference in Dynamic Econometric Models," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198773139.
  7. Raftery A.E. & Zheng Y., 2003. "Discussion: Performance of Bayesian Model Averaging," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 98, pages 931-938, January.
  8. Downing, Mark & Ozuna, Teofilo Jr., 1996. "Testing the Reliability of the Benefit Function Transfer Approach," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 316-322, May.
  9. Arana, Jorge E. & Leon, Carmelo J., 2005. "Flexible mixture distribution modeling of dichotomous choice contingent valuation with heterogenity," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 170-188, July.
  10. Dadi Kristofersson & Ståle Navrud, 2005. "Validity Tests of Benefit Transfer – Are We Performing the Wrong Tests?," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 30(3), pages 279-286, 03.
  11. Moeltner, Klaus & Boyle, Kevin J. & Paterson, Robert W., 2007. "Meta-analysis and benefit transfer for resource valuation-addressing classical challenges with Bayesian modeling," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 250-269, March.
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