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


  • 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

Suggested Citation

  • Dale Whittington, 2004. "Ethical Issues with Contingent Valuation Surveys in Developing Countries: A Note on Informed Consent and Other Concerns," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 28(4), pages 507-515, August.
  • 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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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Whittington, Dale, 1998. "Administering contingent valuation surveys in developing countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 21-30, January.
    2. 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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    Cited by:

    1. Taale, Francis & Kyeremeh, Christian, 2015. "Households' willingness to pay for reliable electricity services in Ghana," MPRA Paper 65780, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Bush, Glenn & Hanley, Nicholas & Moro, Mirko & Rondeau, Daniel, 2012. "Measuring the Local Opportunity Costs of Conservation: A Provision Point Mechanism for Willingness-to-Accept," Stirling Economics Discussion Papers 2012-14, University of Stirling, Division of Economics.
    3. Dale Whittington & Vic Adamowicz, 2010. "The Use of Hypothetical Baselines in Stated Preference Surveys," EEPSEA Special and Technical Paper sp201009s1, Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia (EEPSEA), revised Sep 2010.
    4. Dale Whittington & Stefano Pagiola, 2012. "Using Contingent Valuation in the Design of Payments for Environmental Services Mechanisms: A Review and Assessment," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 27(2), pages 261-287, August.
    5. Bush, Glenn & Hanley, Nicholas & Rondeau, Daniel, 2011. "Comparing opportunity cost measures of forest conservation in Uganda; implications for assessing the distributional impacts of forest management approac hes," Stirling Economics Discussion Papers 2011-12, University of Stirling, Division of Economics.
    6. Taale, Francis & Kyeremeh, Christian, 2016. "Households׳ willingness to pay for reliable electricity services in Ghana," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 280-288.
    7. Ahlheim, Michael & Börger, Tobias & Frör, Oliver, 2011. "Respondent incentives in contingent valuation: The role of reciprocity," FZID Discussion Papers 39-2011, University of Hohenheim, Center for Research on Innovation and Services (FZID).
    8. Schläpfer, Felix, 2016. "Democratic valuation (DV): Using majority voting principles to value public services," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 36-42.


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