"I struggled with this money business”: Respondents' perspectives on contingent valuation

Judy Clark, Jacquelin Burgess, Carolyn M. Harrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Citations (Scopus)


In the long-running debates about the validity and legitimacy of contingent valuation (CV), very little research has engaged directly with respondents during or after the survey to explore what individuals’ willingness to pay (WTP) figure meant. This paper presents the results of qualitative research with respondents to a CV survey carried out as part of the appraisal of a specific nature conservation policy in the UK. The results show that respondents’ questioned the validity of their WTP figures through discussion of the difficulties they experienced in framing a meaningful reply. Significant difficulties included problems in contextualising what the scheme was and how much it might be worth in both monetary and non-monetary terms; an inability to work out a value for one scheme in isolation from others in other parts of the UK; and feelings that values for nature were not commensurable with monetary valuation. Turning to the legitimacy of CV, participants in the research challenged claims that CV is a democratic process for ensuring that public values are incorporated in policy decisions. Recognizing that hard economic choices have to be made in order to achieve nature conservation goals, participants argued for a decision-making institution where local people could contribute to environmental policy decisions through dialogue with scientists and policy-makers. In the final part of the paper, this project is compared with three studies that have also used qualitative approaches with respondents during and/or after a CV survey. The paper concludes that more context-specific, qualitative research with respondents is needed to explore further the conclusion that CV may not be a good methodology for capturing complex, cultural values for nature and landscape.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-62
Number of pages18
JournalEcological Economics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2000

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