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Risk ratings that do not measure probabilities

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  • W. Kip Viscusi
  • Jahn Hakes

Abstract

Survey questions regarding assessed survival chances are an often-used example of a risk rating scale for eliciting a probability assessment. The responses to such questions do exhibit several properties of probabilities, but differ in some key respects, resulting in relationships which are not only inconsistent with accurate beliefs, but also in which precision is sacrificed for ease of use. The Health and Retirement Study, for example, uses a 0 to 10 scale to measure self-assessed survival probabilities to a particular age. Transformation of these responses for use as a probability results in some patterns that are consistent with a model of imperfect information, or a monotonic transformation of imperfectly perceived risks, but more subtle analysis reveals inconsistencies with either of these theories, suggesting the scale is inappropriate for use as a probability measure. The age-related effects for female respondents are the most salient results that are inconsistent with use of the survey's response scale as representing a probability.

Suggested Citation

  • W. Kip Viscusi & Jahn Hakes, 2003. "Risk ratings that do not measure probabilities," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(1), pages 23-43, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jriskr:v:6:y:2003:i:1:p:23-43
    DOI: 10.1080/1366987032000047789
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1080/1366987032000047789
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Michael D. Hurd & Kathleen McGarry, 1995. "Evaluation of the Subjective Probabilities of Survival in the Health and Retirement Study," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30, pages s268-s292.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gregory DeAngelo & Gary Charness, 2012. "Deterrence, expected cost, uncertainty and voting: Experimental evidence," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 73-100, February.
    2. Gabriel Picone & Frank Sloan & Donald Taylor, 2004. "Effects of Risk and Time Preference and Expected Longevity on Demand for Medical Tests," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 28(1), pages 39-53, January.
    3. Nicolas Bouckaert & Erik Schokkaert, 2016. "Differing types of medical prevention appeal to different individuals," The European Journal of Health Economics, Springer;Deutsche Gesellschaft für Gesundheitsökonomie (DGGÖ), vol. 17(3), pages 317-337, April.
    4. Khwaja, Ahmed & Silverman, Dan & Sloan, Frank & Wang, Yang, 2009. "Are mature smokers misinformed?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 385-397, March.
    5. John Payne & Namika Sagara & Suzanne Shu & Kirstin Appelt & Eric Johnson, 2013. "Life expectancy as a constructed belief: Evidence of a live-to or die-by framing effect," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 46(1), pages 27-50, February.
    6. Adeline Delavande, 2008. "Measuring revisions to subjective expectations," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 36(1), pages 43-82, February.
    7. Henrik Hammar & Olof Johansson-Stenman, 2004. "The value of risk-free cigarettes - do smokers underestimate the risk?," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(1), pages 59-71.
    8. Cerroni, Simone & Notaro, Sandra & Shaw, W. Douglass, 2013. "How many bad apples are in a bunch? An experimental investigation of perceived pesticide residue risks," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 112-123.
    9. Ahmed Khwaja & Frank Sloan & Sukyung Chung, 2006. "The Effects of Spousal Health on the Decision to Smoke: Evidence on Consumption Externalities, Altruism and Learning Within the Household," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 32(1), pages 17-35, January.
    10. Frank Sloan & Lindsey Eldred & Tong Guo & Yanzhi Xu, 2013. "Are people overoptimistic about the effects of heavy drinking?," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 47(1), pages 93-127, August.
    11. Ahmed Khwaja & Frank Sloan & Sukyung Chung, 2007. "The relationship between individual expectations and behaviors: Mortality expectations and smoking decisions," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 35(2), pages 179-201, October.
    12. Fumihiro Yamane & Kyohei Matsushita & Toshio Fujimi & Hideaki Ohgaki & Kota Asano, 2014. "A Simple Way to Elicit Subjective Ambiguity: Application to Low-dose Radiation Exposure in Fukushima," Discussion Papers 1417, Graduate School of Economics, Kobe University.
    13. Katherine Carman & Peter Kooreman, 2014. "Probability perceptions and preventive health care," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 49(1), pages 43-71, August.
    14. Evans, Mary F. & Smith, V. Kerry, 2006. "Do we really understand the age-VSL relationship?," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 242-261, August.

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