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Discrete choices and the trade-off between money and time: A test of the theory of reference-dependent preferences

  • De Borger, Bruno
  • Fosgerau, Mogens

We formulate a model of reference-dependent preferences based on the marginal rate of substitution at the reference-point of a reference-free utility function. Using binary choices on the trade-off between money and travel time, reference-dependence is captured by value functions that are centered at the reference. The model predicts a directly testable relationship among four commonly used valuation measures (willingness to pay (WTP), willingness to accept (WTA), equivalent gain (EG) and equivalent loss (EL)). Moreover, we show that the model allows recovering the underlying ‘reference-free’ value of time. This provides a potential solution to the issue of which measure to use for public policy evaluation. Based on a large survey data set, we estimate an econometric version of the model, allowing for both observed and unobserved heterogeneity. In a series of tests of high statistical power, we find that the relationship among the four valuation measures conforms to our model and that the constraints on the parameters implied by the model are met. The gap between WTP and WTA is found to be a factor of four. Loss aversion plays an important role in explaining responses; moreover, participants are more loss averse in the time dimension than the cost dimension. We further find evidence of asymmetrically diminishing sensitivity. Finally, we show that the fraction of ´mistakes`, in the sense that participants are observed to sometimes select dominated options, varies systematically in a way consistent with the model of reference-dependence.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 3904.

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Date of creation: 05 Jan 2007
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:3904
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  1. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-91, March.
  2. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard H. Thaler, 1993. "Myopic Loss Aversion and the Equity Premium Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 4369, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. repec:att:wimass:9406 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Peter A. Diamond & Jerry A. Hausman, 1994. "Contingent Valuation: Is Some Number Better than No Number?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 45-64, Fall.
  5. Bateman, Ian & Kahneman, Daniel & Munro, Alistair & Starmer, Chris & Sugden, Robert, 2005. "Testing competing models of loss aversion: an adversarial collaboration," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(8), pages 1561-1580, August.
  6. Mogens Fosgerau, 2005. "Specification Of A Model To Measure The Value Of Travel Time Savings From Binomial Data," Urban/Regional 0508008, EconWPA.
  7. Randall, Alan & Stoll, John R, 1980. "Consumer's Surplus in Commodity Space," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 449-55, June.
  8. Bateman, Ian J, et al, 1997. "A Test of the Theory of Reference-Dependent Preferences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 479-505, May.
  9. Mogens Fosgerau, 2004. "Investigating the distribution of the value of travel time savings," Urban/Regional 0410005, EconWPA, revised 25 Nov 2004.
  10. Botond Koszegi & Matthew Rabin, 2004. "A Model of Reference-Dependent Preferences," Method and Hist of Econ Thought 0407001, EconWPA.
  11. Andreoni, James, 1995. "Warm-Glow versus Cold-Prickle: The Effects of Positive and Negative Framing on Cooperation in Experiments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(1), pages 1-21, February.
  12. Lars Hultkrantz & Reza Mortazavi, 2001. "Anomalies in the Value of Travel-Time Changes," Journal of Transport Economics and Policy, London School of Economics and University of Bath, vol. 35(2), pages 285-299, May.
  13. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-61, November.
  14. Munro, Alistair & Sugden, Robert, 2003. "On the theory of reference-dependent preferences," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 407-428, April.
  15. John List, 2004. "Neoclassical theory versus prospect theory: Evidence from the marketplace," Framed Field Experiments 00174, The Field Experiments Website.
  16. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Experimental Tests of the Endowment Effect and the Coase Theorem," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1325-48, December.
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