Hypothetical versus real willingness to pay in the health care sector: results from a field experiment

J Health Econ. 2001 May;20(3):441-57. doi: 10.1016/s0167-6296(01)00075-3.


We conducted a field experiment comparing hypothetical and real purchase decisions for a pharmacist provided asthma management program among 172 subjects with asthma. Subjects received either a dichotomous choice contingent valuation question or were given the opportunity to actually enroll in the program. Three different prices were used: US$ 15, 40, and 80. In the hypothetical group, 38% of subjects said that they would purchase the good at the stated price, but only 12% of subjects in the real group purchased the good (p = 0.000). We cannot, however, reject the null hypothesis that "definitely sure" hypothetical yes responses, as identified in a follow-up question, correspond to real yes responses. We conclude that the dichotomous choice contingent valuation method overestimates willingness to pay, but that it may be possible to correct for this overestimation by sorting out "definitely sure" yes responses.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / economics*
  • Bias
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Disease Management*
  • Female
  • Financing, Personal*
  • Health Care Sector
  • Humans
  • Kentucky
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pharmacies / economics*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires