Aggregating the benefits of environmental improvements: distance-decay functions for use and non-use values

J Environ Manage. 2003 Jul;68(3):297-304. doi: 10.1016/s0301-4797(03)00084-7.


One of the main problems in using environmental cost-benefit analysis is deciding on the relevant population: whose benefits should we count? This is important since aggregate benefits depend on both per-person benefit and the number of beneficiaries. Yet this latter term is often hard to evaluate. Distance-decay functions are one way of addressing this problem. In this paper, we present estimates of distance-decay functions for a particular environmental improvement, namely a reduction in low flow problems on the River Mimram in Southern England. We do this both for users and non-users, in the context of a contingent valuation study of the benefits of improving low flow conditions. We test whether distance-decay effects for mean Willingness to Pay are stronger for a single environmental good (the River Mimram, in this case) than for a more inclusive set (here, all rivers in Thames region which suffer from low flow problems). Finally, we explore the impact on part-whole bias, in terms of the relationship between WTP for an individual site and WTP for a more inclusive group of sites, of allowing for distance-decay effects.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Community Participation
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / economics*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis / methods*
  • Ecosystem
  • England
  • Financing, Personal
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Models, Econometric
  • Rivers*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Taxes
  • Water Movements*