Discussion Paper Details

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Title: Using Survey Questions to Measure Preferences: Lessons from an Experimental Validation in Kenya

Author(s): Michal Bauer, Julie Chytilova and Edward Miguel

Publication Date: June 2019

Keyword(s): Experiment, preference measurement, survey and validation

Programme Area(s): Development Economics and Labour Economics

Abstract: Can a short survey instrument reliably measure a range of fundamental economic preferences across diverse settings? We focus on survey questions that systematically predict behavior in incentivized experimental tasks among German university students (Becker et al. 2016) and were implemented among representative samples across the globe (Falk et al. 2018). This paper presents results of an experimental validation conducted among low-income individuals in Nairobi, Kenya. We find that quantitative survey measures -- hypothetical versions of experimental tasks -- of time preference, attitude to risk and altruism are good predictors of choices in incentivized experiments, suggesting these measures are broadly experimentally valid. At the same time, we find that qualitative questions -- self-assessments -- do not correlate with the experimental measures of preferences in the Kenyan sample. Thus, caution is needed before treating self-assessments as proxies of preferences in new contexts.

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Bibliographic Reference

Bauer, M, Chytilova, J and Miguel, E. 2019. 'Using Survey Questions to Measure Preferences: Lessons from an Experimental Validation in Kenya'. London, Centre for Economic Policy Research.