Environmental and Resource Economics

, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 109–131 | Cite as

Accounting for Latent Attitudes in Willingness-to-Pay Studies: The Case of Coastal Water Quality Improvements in Tobago

  • Stephane HessEmail author
  • Nesha Beharry-Borg


The study of human behaviour and in particular individual choices is of great interest in the field of environmental economics. Substantial attention has been paid to the way in which preferences vary across individuals, and there is a realisation that such differences are at least in part due to underlying attitudes and convictions. While this has been confirmed in empirical work, the methods typically employed are based on the arguably misguided use of responses to attitudinal questions as direct measures of underlying attitudes. As discussed in other literature, especially in transport research, this potentially leads to measurement error and endogeneity bias, and attitudes should rather be treated as latent variables. In this paper, we illustrate the use of such an Integrated Choice and Latent Variable model in the context of beach visitors’ willingness-to-pay for improvements in water quality. We show how a latent attitudinal variable, which we refer to as a pro-intervention attitude, helps explain both the responses from the stated choice exercise as well as answers to various rating questions related to respondent attitudes. The incorporation of the latent variable leads to important gains in model fit and substantially different willingness-to-pay patterns.


Integrated Choice and Latent Variable (ICLV) model Discrete choice Latent attitude Coastal water Beach recreation Taste heterogeneity 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Transport StudiesUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK
  2. 2.Sustainable Resources InstituteUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

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