Essays on econometric modeling of subjective perceptions of risks in environment and human health



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A large body of literature studies the issues of the option price and other ex-ante welfare measures under the microeconomic theory to valuate reductions of risks inherent in environment and human health. However, it does not offer a careful discussion of how to estimate risk reduction values using data, especially the modeling and estimating individual perceptions of risks present in the econometric models. The central theme of my dissertation is the approaches taken for the empirical estimation of probabilistic risks under alternative assumptions about individual perceptions of risk involved: the objective probability, the Savage subjective probability, and the subjective distributions of probability. Each of these three types of risk specifications is covered in one of the three essays. The first essay addresses the problem of empirical estimation of individual willingness to pay for recreation access to public land under uncertainty. In this essay I developed an econometric model and applied it to the case of lottery-rationed hunting permits. The empirical result finds that the model correctly predicts the responses of 84% of the respondents in the Maine moose hunting survey. The second essay addresses the estimation of a logit model for individual binary choices that involve heterogeneity in subjective probabilities. For this problem, I introduce the use of the hierarchical Bayes to estimate, among others, the parameters of distribution of subjective probabilities. The Monte Carlo study finds the estimator asymptotically unbiased and efficient. The third essay addresses the problem of modeling perceived mortality risks from arsenic concentrations in drinking water. I estimated a formal model that allows for ambiguity about risk. The empirical findings revealed that perceived risk was positively associated with exposure levels and also related individuating factors, in particular smoking habits and one?s current health status. Further evidence was found that the variance of the perceived risk distribution is non-zero. In all, the three essays contribute methodological approaches and provide empirical examples for developing empirical models and estimating value of risk reductions in environment and human health, given the assumption about the individual?s perceptions of risk, and accordingly, the reasonable specifications of risks involved in the models.