Using Angler Characteristics and Attitudinal Data to Identify Environmental Preference Classes: A Latent-Class Model
A latent-class model of environmental preference groups is developed and estimated with only the answers to a set of attitudinal questions. Economists do not typically use this type of data in estimation. Group membership is latent/unobserved. The intent is to identify and characterize heterogeneity in the preferences for environmental amenities in terms of a small number of preference groups. The application is to preferences over the fishing characteristics of Green Bay. Anglers answered a number of attitudinal questions, including the importance of boat fees, species catch rates, and fish consumption advisories on site choice. The results suggest that Green Bay anglers separate into a small number of distinct classes with varying preferences and willingness to pay for a PCB-free Green Bay. The probability that an angler belongs to each class is estimated as function of observable characteristics of the individual. Estimation is with the expectation–maximization (E–M) algorithm, a technique new to environmental economics that can be used to do maximum-likelihood estimation with incomplete information. As explained, a latent-class model estimated with attitudinal data can be melded with a latent-class choice model.