Nonparametric Bayesian modelling of monotone preferences for discrete choice experiments

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Journal Article
Journal of Econometrics, 2012, 171 (2), pp. 185 - 204
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Discrete choice experiments are widely used to learn about the distribution of individual preferences for product attributes. Such experiments are often designed and conducted deliberately for the purpose of designing new products. There is a long-standing literature on nonparametric and Bayesian modelling of preferences for the study of consumer choice when there is a market for each product, but this work does not apply when such markets fail to exist as is the case with most product attributes. This paper takes up the common case in which attributes can be quantified and preferences over these attributes are monotone. It shows that monotonicity is the only shape constraint appropriate for a utility function in these circumstances. The paper models components of utility using a Dirichlet prior distribution and demonstrates that all monotone nondecreasing utility functions are supported by the prior. It develops a Markov chain Monte Carlo algorithm for posterior simulation that is reliable and practical given the number of attributes, choices and sample sizes characteristic of discrete choice experiments. The paper uses the algorithm to demonstrate the flexibility of the model in capturing heterogeneous preferences and applies it to a discrete choice experiment that elicits preferences for different auto insurance policies. © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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