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Unobserved heterogeneity greatly complicates empirical analysis in economics. Unobserved heterogeneity in preferences is particularly troublesome because there are so few theoretical restrictions on the distribution of preference parameters in the population. Therefore, despite potential pitfalls, we have developed direct survey measures of preference parameters based on hypothetical choices and appropriate econometric techniques for dealing with the inevitable measurement error in any such measures. Our work on survey measures of preference parameters focuses on risk tolerance, time preference and the elasticity of intertemporal substitution and labor supply elasticities.
Risk tolerance is central to portfolio choice and many other economic decisions, such as choices about insurance and career choices. In this paper, we discuss how to go from categorical survey responses to imputed values of preference parameters. The procedure takes into account measurement error from survey response, and has implications for the appropriate use of imputed preference parameters in econometric analysis. We present the risk tolerance imputations for the survey responses in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). We also present quantitative evidence on the covariation in risk preferences within families.
PMCID: PMC2995549. (Pub Med Central)
Country of focus: United States.