Assuring Finite Moments for Willingness to Pay in Random Coefficient Models

Published in: Transportation, v. 39, no. 1, Jan. 2012, p. 19-31

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2012

by Andrew Daly, Stephane Hess, Kenneth Train

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Random coefficient models such as mixed logit are increasingly being used to allow for random heterogeneity in willingness to pay (WTP) measures. In the most commonly used specifications, the distribution of WTP for an attribute is derived from the distribution of the ratio of individual coefficients. Since the cost coefficient enters the denominator, its distribution plays a major role in the distribution of WTP. Depending on the choice of distribution for the cost coefficient, and its implied range, the distribution of WTP may or may not have finite moments. In this paper, we identify a criterion to determine whether, with a given distribution for the cost coefficient, the distribution of WTP has finite moments. Using this criterion, we show that some popular distributions used for the cost coefficient in random coefficient models, including normal, truncated normal, uniform and triangular, imply infinite moments for the distribution of WTP, even if truncated or bounded at zero. We also point out that relying on simulation approaches to obtain moments of WTP from the estimated distribution of the cost and attribute coefficients can mask the issue by giving finite moments when the true ones are infinite.

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