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

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  • De Borger, Bruno
  • Fosgerau, Mogens

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • De Borger, Bruno & Fosgerau, Mogens, 2007. "Discrete choices and the trade-off between money and time: A test of the theory of reference-dependent preferences," MPRA Paper 3904, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:3904
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard H. Thaler, 1995. "Myopic Loss Aversion and the Equity Premium Puzzle," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(1), pages 73-92.
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    5. Ian Bateman & Alistair Munro & Bruce Rhodes & Chris Starmer & Robert Sugden, 1997. "A Test of the Theory of Reference-Dependent Preferences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 479-505.
    6. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-1061.
    7. Charles R. Plott & Kathryn Zeiler, 2005. "The Willingness to Pay–Willingness to Accept Gap, the "Endowment Effect," Subject Misconceptions, and Experimental Procedures for Eliciting Valuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 530-545, June.
    8. John A. List, 2004. "Neoclassical Theory Versus Prospect Theory: Evidence from the Marketplace," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(2), pages 615-625, March.
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    10. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Van Ommeren, Jos & Fosgerau, Mogens, 2009. "Workers' marginal costs of commuting," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 38-47, January.
    2. Lucia Rotaris & Romeo Danielis & Igor Sarman & Edoardo Marcucci, 2012. "Testing for nonlinearity in the choice of a freight transport service," European Transport \ Trasporti Europei, ISTIEE, Institute for the Study of Transport within the European Economic Integration, issue 50, pages 1-4.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Reference-dependence; loss aversion; WTP-WTA gap; value of time;

    JEL classification:

    • C25 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Discrete Regression and Qualitative Choice Models; Discrete Regressors; Proportions; Probabilities
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles

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