The accuracy of proxy responses in a stated choice setting: A re-examination and some controversial conclusions

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Journal Article
Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 2012, 46 (1), pp. 226 - 239
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Data is typically gathered from an individual respondent who represents the group or the household. This individual is often identified as the " primary decision maker" and is asked to provide responses as a proxy for the group given that the cost of interviewing each member individually is impractical and/or expensive. The collection of joint preferences is rarely undertaken, with the use of proxy responses not uncommon in travel behaviour research. Under such a framework, there exists an assumption that the primary decision maker has perfect knowledge of other group member preferences, and bargaining behaviour, and is able to synthesise this information when providing a response on their behalf. The validity of such an assumption however remains an open question, with recent research calling the reliability of proxy responses into account (Bateman and Munro, 2009). In this paper, using three models estimated in willingness to pay space, we examine the accuracy of proxy responses in a stated choice experiment. We find that there is overlap between a proxy response and the own preferences of the individual providing the proxy choice, but while the proxy responses fail to represent the full preference heterogeneity that exists in the actual choices made by individuals, the proxy responses in aggregate provide a suitable replacement for actual data, subject to a number of caveats. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
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