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Consistency and fungibility of monetary valuations in transport: An empirical analysis of framing and mental accounting effects


  • Hess, Stephane
  • Orr, Shepley
  • Sheldon, Rob


Governments around the world use monetised values of transport externalities to undertake project appraisal and cost–benefit analysis. However, because different types of benefits are monetised (e.g., travel time savings, preventing statistical fatalities, reliability, etc.) the question naturally arises as to whether they are consistent. That is, whether a “dollar is a dollar” as welfare economics requires, or whether spending money in one area carries a different disutility from spending money in another area. This would equate to a violation of fungibility, which is the property of a good or a commodity whose individual units are capable of mutual substitution. The view that money is not fungible is explained in behavioural economics through theories of framing and mental accounting. This paper describes the results of a stated choice experiment designed to test the fungibility and consistency of monetary valuations in transport. From a nationally representative sample, we elicit direct values for the three pairwise trade-offs between travel time, travel cost, and safety. We then show that in the context of our analysis, any trade-offs inferred on the basis of other trade-offs, as is common practice (e.g. inferring a safety vs time trade-off on the basis of monetary valuations for time and safety), produces biased results, suggesting that the assumption of fungibility does not hold. Specifically, we find that time is valued more highly when valued directly by cost than when traded with safety, and the reverse is true for safety.

Suggested Citation

  • Hess, Stephane & Orr, Shepley & Sheldon, Rob, 2012. "Consistency and fungibility of monetary valuations in transport: An empirical analysis of framing and mental accounting effects," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 46(10), pages 1507-1516.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:transa:v:46:y:2012:i:10:p:1507-1516
    DOI: 10.1016/j.tra.2012.05.020

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Shafir, Eldar & Thaler, Richard H., 2006. "Invest now, drink later, spend never: On the mental accounting of delayed consumption," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 694-712, October.
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    6. Richard H. Thaler, 2008. "Mental Accounting and Consumer Choice," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 27(1), pages 15-25, 01-02.
    7. Read, Daniel & Loewenstein, George & Rabin, Matthew, 1999. "Choice Bracketing," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 19(1-3), pages 171-197, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bao, Yue & Gao, Ziyou & Xu, Meng & Sun, Huijun & Yang, Hai, 2015. "Travel mental budgeting under road toll: An investigation based on user equilibrium," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 1-17.


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