Chapter 12: Non-market Valuation on the Internet
Hale W. Thurston 12.1 Introduction Will surveys on the internet eventually be used by economists to collect data to conduct unbiased non-market valuation studies? The answer is ‘yes’. Can we do this now? The answer is ‘not quite’. The lure of the internet for data collection is strong: marginal cost of data collection almost nil and the electronic format lends itself to easy data handling. Furthermore, unlike other survey methods, the researcher can enhance the respondent’s understanding of the good in question by showing drawings, photographs, and graphs on the survey page, or provide links to other pages where pertinent information is readily available. The survey can be designed such that the researcher can track the time a respondent spends pondering a question. The researcher can keep the respondent from looking ahead or back in the text, or, if so desired, he can ‘watch’ as the respondent ‘ﬂips’ back a page or two and changes an answer. Virtual interviewers (of diﬀerent races and gender) can be embedded in the page to read the survey questionnaire to the respondent. The possibilities are endless. The catch? No matter how elaborate the survey, the conclusions drawn by the study are constrained by the survey’s sample. Access to the internet continues to increase. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration estimated that 26.2 per cent of US households had internet access in 1999, up from 18.6 per cent in 1997, and the Pew institute puts the number at approximately 50 per cent by 2000...
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