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How wrong can you be? Implications of incorrect utility function specification for welfare measurement in choice experiments

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  • Torres, Cati
  • Hanley, Nick
  • Riera, Antoni

Abstract

Despite the vital role of the utility function in welfare measurement, the implications of working with incorrect utility specifications have been largely neglected in the choice experiments literature. This paper addresses the importance of specification with a special emphasis on the effects of mistaken assumptions about the marginal utility of income. Monte Carlo experiments were conducted using different functional forms of utility to generate simulated choices. Multi-Nomial Logit and Mixed Logit models were then estimated on these choices under correct and incorrect assumptions about the true, underlying utility function. Estimated willingness to pay measures from these choice modeling results are then compared with the equivalent measures directly calculated from the true utility specifications. Results show that for the parameter values and functional forms considered, a continuous-quadratic or a discrete-linear attribute specification is a good option regardless of the true effects the attribute has on utility. We also find that mistaken assumptions about preferences over costs magnify attribute mis-specification effects.

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  • Torres, Cati & Hanley, Nick & Riera, Antoni, 2011. "How wrong can you be? Implications of incorrect utility function specification for welfare measurement in choice experiments," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 111-121, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeeman:v:62:y:2011:i:1:p:111-121
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    1. Torres, Cati & Faccioli, Michela & Riera Font, Antoni, 2017. "Waiting or acting now? The effect on willingness-to-pay of delivering inherent uncertainty information in choice experiments," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 231-240.
    2. Doherty, Edel & Campbell, Danny & Hynes, Stephen, 2012. "Exploring cost heterogeneity in recreational demand," Working Papers 148832, Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit, National University of Ireland, Galway.
    3. Catalina M. Torres & Sergio Colombo & Nick Hanley, 2014. "Incorrectly accounting for preference heterogeneity in choice experiments: what are the implications for welfare measurement?," DEA Working Papers 65, Universitat de les Illes Balears, Departament d'Economía Aplicada.
    4. repec:sss:wpaper:201407 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Edel Doherty & Danny Campbell & Stephen Hynes, 2013. "Models of Site-choice for Walks in Rural Ireland: Exploring Cost Heterogeneity," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(2), pages 446-466, June.
    6. Wiktor Budziński, 2015. "The effects of non-constant marginal utility of cost for public goods valuation," Ekonomia journal, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw, vol. 43.
    7. Sclen, Håkon & Kallbekken, Steffen, 2011. "A choice experiment on fuel taxation and earmarking in Norway," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(11), pages 2181-2190, September.
    8. Gevrek, Z.Eylem & Uyduranoglu, Ayse, 2015. "Public preferences for carbon tax attributes," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 186-197.
    9. Li, Lianhua & Adamowicz, Wiktor & Swait, Joffre, 2015. "The effect of choice set misspecification on welfare measures in random utility models," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 71-92.
    10. Michela Faccioli & Nicholas Hanley & Catalina M. Torres Figuerola & Antoni Riera Font, 2015. "Do we care about sustainability? An analysis of time sensitivity of social preferences under environmental time-persistent effects," DEA Working Papers 71, Universitat de les Illes Balears, Departament d'Economía Aplicada.
    11. repec:kap:theord:v:84:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s11238-017-9638-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Z. Eylem Gevrek & Ayse Uyduranoglu, 2015. "Public Preferences for Carbon Tax Attributes," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2015-15, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
    13. Tomás del Barrio Casto & William Nilsson & Andrés J. Picazo-Tadeo, 2013. "How wrong can you be, without noticing? Further evidence on speci cation errors in the Conditional Logit," Working Papers 1318, Department of Applied Economics II, Universidad de Valencia.
    14. Catalina M. Torres Figuerola & Nick Hanley & Sergio Colombo, 2011. "Incorrectly accounting for taste heterogeneity in choice experiments: Does it really matter for welfare measurement?," CRE Working Papers (Documents de treball del CRE) 2011/1, Centre de Recerca Econòmica (UIB ·"Sa Nostra").
    15. Dieckhoener, Caroline & Hecking, Harald, 2012. "Greenhouse Gas Abatement Cost Curves of the Residential Heating Market – a Microeconomic Approach," EWI Working Papers 2012-16, Energiewirtschaftliches Institut an der Universitaet zu Koeln (EWI).

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