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Measuring beachgoer preferences for avoiding harmful algal blooms and bacterial warnings

Greg Boudreaux, Frank Lupi, Brent Sohngen and Alan Xu

Ecological Economics, 2023, vol. 204, issue PA

Abstract: This paper estimates beachgoers' preferences for beach quality, including avoidance of harmful algal blooms and bacterial warnings. Following a stratified random sampling schedule, data was collected via interviews conducted at 28 public beaches from Eastern Ohio to Northern Lake St Clair. Randomly selected visitors were interviewed and sent a follow-up choice experiment survey, which measured preferences for beach attributes. We find the average respondent is willing to drive 260 and 266 miles to avoid sites with either current HAB or bacterial warnings, and find a negative stigma effect that remains at least 6 days post-warning. While respondents' aversion to active HAB and bacterial warnings are not statistically different, this aversion decreases more slowly after a bacterial warning; respondents are willing to drive 77 miles to avoid a site with a bacterial warning lifted 6 days earlier, but only 31 miles to avoid a site with a HAB warning lifted 6 days earlier. To test our findings' validity, we used the choice model estimates to simulate responses to contingent behavior questions from the follow-up. Although framed differently, the elicitation formats yield concordant findings. Results indicate that cost-benefit analysis which doesn't evaluate the stigma effect of recently-lifted warnings may understate their costs.

Keywords: Water quality; Choice experiment; Harmful algal bloom; Bacterial contamination; Stated preference; Great Lakes (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2023
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DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2022.107653

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