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

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  • Leon-Gonzalez, Roberto
  • Scarpa, Riccardo

Abstract

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'.

Suggested Citation

  • Leon-Gonzalez, Roberto & Scarpa, Riccardo, 2008. "Improving multi-site benefit functions via Bayesian model averaging: A new approach to benefit transfer," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 50-68, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeeman:v:56:y:2008:i:1:p:50-68
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    References listed on IDEAS

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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.
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    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. Dadi Kristofersson & Ståle Navrud, 2005. "Validity Tests of Benefit Transfer – Are We Performing the Wrong Tests?," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 30(3), pages 279-286, March.
    9. 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.
    10. 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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    Cited by:

    1. Tiffin, Richard & Balcombe, Kelvin, 2011. "The determinants of technology adoption by UK farmers using Bayesian model averaging: the cases of organic production and computer usage," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 55(4), December.
    2. Robert J. Johnston & Randall S. Rosenberger, 2010. "Methods, Trends And Controversies In Contemporary Benefit Transfer," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 24(3), pages 479-510, July.
    3. Stefani, Gianluca & Scarpa, Riccardo & Lombardi, Ginevra V., 2014. "An addendum to: a meta-analysis of hypothethical bias in stated preference valuation," Bio-based and Applied Economics Journal, Italian Association of Agricultural and Applied Economics (AIEAA), issue 2, August.
    4. Huang, Pei & McCarl, Bruce A., 2014. "Estimating Decadal Climate Variability Effects on Crop Yields: A Bayesian Hierarchical Approach," 2014 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2014, Minneapolis, Minnesota 169828, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    5. Robert Johnston & Klaus Moeltner, 2014. "Meta-Modeling and Benefit Transfer: The Empirical Relevance of Source-Consistency in Welfare Measures," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 59(3), pages 337-361, November.
    6. I. Bateman & R. Brouwer & S. Ferrini & M. Schaafsma & D. Barton & A. Dubgaard & B. Hasler & S. Hime & I. Liekens & S. Navrud & L. De Nocker & R. Ščeponavičiūtė & D. Semėnienė, 2011. "Making Benefit Transfers Work: Deriving and Testing Principles for Value Transfers for Similar and Dissimilar Sites Using a Case Study of the Non-Market Benefits of Water Quality Improvements Across E," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 50(3), pages 365-387, November.

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