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Do status quo choices reflect preferences? Evidence from a discrete choice experiment in the context of water utilities' investment planning

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  • Bruno Lanz

    () (Department of Management, Technology and Economics, ETH Zurich, Switzerland)

  • Allan Provins

    () (Economics for the Environment Consultancy, London, UK)

Abstract

Discrete choice experiments are increasingly being used to assess preferences for services provided by regulated utilities. A commonly observed tendency of customers to opt for the status quo option may signal unwillingness to trade-off changes in service levels with bills, questioning the welfare theoretic interpretation of stated choices. In this paper, we examine status-quo choices and systematic non-trading behaviour in a discrete choice experiment encompassing a wide range of water-related service attributes. Our analysis is novel in several dimensions. First, we use a split sample design to vary the description of the status quo and the survey administration mode (online vs. in person). Second, we define service attributes to span both improvements and deterioration, so that the status quo is not necessarily the least-cost alternative. Third, we elicit information about the perception of the status quo and the impact of service attributes on day-to-day activities. Our results suggest that status quo choices largely reflect preferences.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruno Lanz & Allan Provins, 2012. "Do status quo choices reflect preferences? Evidence from a discrete choice experiment in the context of water utilities' investment planning," CEPE Working paper series 12-87, CEPE Center for Energy Policy and Economics, ETH Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:cee:wpcepe:12-87
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    File URL: http://www.cepe.ethz.ch/publications/workingPapers/CEPE_WP87.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Lanz, Bruno & Provins, Allan, 2017. "Using averting expenditures to estimate the demand for public goods: Combining objective and perceived quality," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 20-35.
    2. Oehlmann, Malte & Weller, Priska & Meyerhoff, Jürgen, 2014. "Complexity-induced Status Quo Effects in Discrete Choice Experiments for Environmental Valutation," Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100616, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    3. Bruno Lanz & Allan Provins, 2014. "The demand for tap water quality: Survey evidence on water hardness and aesthetic quality," CIES Research Paper series 23-2014, Centre for International Environmental Studies, The Graduate Institute.
    4. Oehlmann, Malte & Meyerhoff, Jürgen & Mariel, Petr & Weller, Priska, 2017. "Uncovering context-induced status quo effects in choice experiments," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 59-73.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    cost-benefit analysis; regulated utilities; economic valuation; discrete choice experiments; individual decision making; status quo effects;

    JEL classification:

    • C35 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Discrete Regression and Qualitative Choice Models; Discrete Regressors; Proportions
    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • L43 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Legal Monopolies and Regulation or Deregulation
    • L95 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Gas Utilities; Pipelines; Water Utilities
    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy
    • Q25 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Water

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