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Reference-Dependence Effects in Benefit Assessment: Beyond the WTA–WTP Dichotomy and WTA–WTP Ratios

  • W. Kip Viscusi (a1)

Abstract

Willingness-to-pay (WTP) values and willingness-to-accept (WTA) values have received considerable attention, but the role of reference-dependence effects is more diverse. Policies involving cost and risk may have reference point effects with respect to both cost and risk, leading to four potential valuation measures. Experimental evidence for water quality policies suggests that the cost reference effects are particularly influential in that context. There is, however, no evidence of significant reference effects for labor market estimates of the value of a statistical life. Sound application of benefit values other than WTP measures requires pertinent empirical evidence and an assessment of the underlying rationality of the determinants of the reference-dependence effects.

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