Methodological Concerns in Valuation Studies

One approach to acquiring a monetary estimate of natural resources is to ask how much people are willing to pay (WTP), at the most, for a collective asset. Another way is to ask how much they would require in compensation for a deterioration of a resource (willingness to accept, or WTA). Several measurement problems have been suggested with the use of CV methods. A large part of the problem with CV measures is that they are sometimes insensitive to the quantity or scope of the good provided. When subjects are asked to evaluate a good, their WTP equals their stated WTP when one or several other goods also are included. In other words, the subject is willing to pay the same amount for the smaller and the larger good if the former is embedded in the latter (Baron and Greene, 1996). This phenomenon is called the 'perfect embedding effect'. An ordering effect has also been found. It arises when subjects are asked their WTP for the smaller good just after they have been asked about a larger one. In such cases, they are only prepared to pay a much smaller amount for the smaller good than for the larger one. This demonstrates that a good seen as embedded within a larger good has reduced value (Baron and Greene, 1996; Baron, 1997). It has also been shown that when subjects are asked about their WTP for several environmental resources of the same kind, it is not much higher, if at all, than the WTP for just one of these resources. This has been termed the 'adding-up effect' (Baron and Greene, 1996).

Apparently, people do not seem to have a well-founded concept of the monetary value of environmental resources. Moreover, how much people are willing to pay does not capture basic value priorities (Fischhoff, 1991). Although values are part of people, people do not always know how to express them. To the extent that values are expressed, self-enhancement values seem to take precedence over self-transcendent or moral values (Guagnano et al, 1994). The following section examines whether willingness to accept measures provides a wider scope for expressing moral values.

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