Do ethical consumers care about price? A revealed preference analysis of fair trade coffee purchases
The existing literature on socially responsible purchasing relies heavily on stated preference measures elicited through surveys that utilize hypothetical market choices. This paper explores consumers' revealed purchasing behavior with regard to fair trade coffee and is apparently the first to do so in an actual market setting. In a series of experiments, we investigated differences in consumer responsiveness to relative price changes in fair trade and non-fair trade brewed coffees. In order to minimize the hypothetical bias that may be present in some experimental settings, we conducted our experiments in cooperation with a vendor who allowed us to vary prices in an actual coffee shop. Using a choice model, we found that purchasers of fair trade coffee were much less price responsive than those of other coffee products. The demonstration of low sensitivity to price suggests that the market premiums identified by stated preference studies do indeed exist and are not merely artifacts of hypothetical settings.
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