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Water Resources Research

Benefit transfer studies: Myths, pragmatism, and idealism


  • Kevin J. Boyle,

  • John C. Bergstrom


Benefit transfer has been an ongoing, practical analysis for years in legal proceedings and government policy analyses where timely benefit estimates are critically dependent on the use of existing data. Most benefit transfer studies to date have been conducted behind closed doors and have not been open to scholarly review, and no systematic research agenda has been established to determine whether benefit transfer estimates are valid for public policy analyses. In this paper we propose a systematic, conceptual foundation for conducting benefit transfer studies, and suggest a research agenda to identify conditions under which valid benefit transfer estimates can be derived. We conclude, however, that this research agenda must be accompanied by improved conduct and reporting of original valuation studies before benefit transfer can become a widely used tool in public policy analyses.

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