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Ethical Issues with Contingent Valuation Surveys in Developing Countries: A Note on Informed Consent and Other Concerns

Listed author(s):
  • Dale Whittington


This article calls attention to some of the problems involved in the ethical review and oversight of contingent valuation research in developing countries, including the question of what informed consent means in a cross-cultural context. A central area of concern is that contingent valuation (CV) surveys have the potential to confuse or mislead respondents. This can cause an individual respondent who is confused or misled to take actions that could harm himself or members of his household. The spread of misinformation and confusion among the study population could also influence the policy process itself in unintended and unfortunate ways, perhaps harming the respondent or others. There are three main ways in which CV surveys can mislead or confuse an individual respondent and spread confusion in the study population: (1) inaccurate provision of background information in the CV scenario, (2) the description of the hypothetical market, and (3) the use of the referendum elicitation procedure and other split-sample experiments commonly used by CV researchers. The difficulties of cross-cultural communication and cooperation add to the ethical complexity of conducting CV surveys in developing countries. Three cross-cultural problems deserve special attention by both institutional review boards and contingent valuation researchers: (i) promises of anonymity and the right of respondents not to participate, (ii) power asymmetries between international and local members of the contingent valuation research team, and (iii) compensation of respondents. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

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Article provided by Springer & European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists in its journal Environmental and Resource Economics.

Volume (Year): 28 (2004)
Issue (Month): 4 (August)
Pages: 507-515

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Handle: RePEc:kap:enreec:v:28:y:2004:i:4:p:507-515
DOI: 10.1023/B:EARE.0000036776.89379.4f
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  1. Whittington, Dale, 1998. "Administering contingent valuation surveys in developing countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 21-30, January.
  2. J. Michael Oakes, 2002. "Risks and Wrongs in Social Science Research," Evaluation Review, , vol. 26(5), pages 443-479, October.
  3. Dale Whittington, 2002. "Improving the Performance of Contingent Valuation Studies in Developing Countries," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 22(1), pages 323-367, June.
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