Respondent Fatigue in Estimates of the Cost of White-Collar Crime: Implications From Willingness-to-Pay Surveys

Published date01 December 2020
Date01 December 2020
Subject MatterArticles
Criminal Justice Policy Review
2020, Vol. 31(9) 1366 –1389
© The Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0887403419900245
Respondent Fatigue in
Estimates of the Cost
of White-Collar Crime:
Implications From
Willingness-to-Pay Surveys
M. Cristina Layana1 and Jacqueline G. Lee2
Contingent valuation (CV) methods are used in many contexts to estimate non-
tangible costs, despite some indications that they may not be reliable. In criminal
justice, CV has been used to generate “costs of crime” for street, violent, and white-
collar crimes. This article explores respondent fatigue using both quantitative and
qualitative indicators from an open-ended CV survey where respondents were asked
how much they would be willing to pay to reduce certain crimes. Our findings reveal
that willingness to pay (WTP) to reduce crime increases when both problematic
response patterns and fatigue effects are accounted for in the calculation, indicating
that fatigued respondents who also engage in straight lining are driving the WTP
estimates down. We conclude by discussing the implications of our results for
policymakers and other consumers of CV studies.
fatigue bias, white-collar crime, financial fraud, willingness-to-pay
Although Durkheim (1895) argued that some amount of crime is necessary and
acceptable for society, most would agree that it would be best crime and victimization
1University of Maryland, College Park, USA
2Boise State University, ID, USA
Corresponding Author:
M. Cristina Layana, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Maryland, 2220
LeFrak Hall, College Park, MD 20742, USA.
900245CJPXXX10.1177/0887403419900245Criminal Justice Policy ReviewLayana and Lee
Layana and Lee 1367
were reduced and/or eradicated. However, the methods by which we can reduce
crime and the amount of resources that should be devoted to such efforts based upon
the harms they cause are unanswered questions. The starting point for many of these
discussions is how much crime costs society. Researchers have used a variety of
methods to estimate cost of crime, including “bottom up” approaches that attempt to
take into account individual components of the costs of crime and “top down”
approaches that elicit information on how much the public would be willing to pay to
reduce crime (Chalfin, 2015). This study focuses on one particular “top down” meth-
odology and the potential issues that arise when using it to estimate costs of crime:
contingent valuation (CV).
By eliciting an individual’s willingness to pay (WTP) to reduce crime, CV methods
are used in criminal justice to estimate intangible costs of street, violent, and white-
collar crimes (see, for example, Cohen, 2010; Cohen & Piquero, 2009). These “costs
of crime” figures are then often used by governments when determining how to best
invest resources (see Cohen, 2010, for a review of this literature). For instance, in
2012, the Department of Justice (DOJ) included WTP estimates of the cost of rape in
its regulatory impact assessment of prison rape policies (U.S. Department of Justice,
2012). This alternative approach allowed the DOJ assessment to include both non-
monetary cost estimates and the out-of-pocket costs of rape (e.g., medical costs).
However, criticisms of the method suggest that numbers generated by CV surveys may
not be reliable (see Carson & Hanemann, 2005; Diamond & Hausman, 1994). This
article explores the effects of respondent fatigue using data from a nationally represen-
tative open-ended (OE) cost of crime survey. The research purpose is twofold: (a) to
assess how respondent fatigue affects OE WTP survey responses to generate costs of
crime values and (b) to explore whether respondent fatigue is related to specific indi-
vidual factors of education, age, income, victimization, and perceived crime serious-
ness. Below, we discuss extant literature on WTP in relation to the different methods
used to elicit people’s preferences for crime reduction programs, along with research
describing how fatigue is implicated in survey methodology and the impact it has on
WTP estimates.
Literature Review
CV and WTP
As mentioned above, CV has been used in multiple contexts. It has also recently been
the topic of a special issue of Criminology and Public Policy (see Nagin, 2015), which
highlights the importance of further examining the potential issues with this survey
methodology. Most relevant to this project, CV has been used to value the intangible
costs of traditional crime, and to a lesser extent white-collar crimes. The majority of
these studies use a “payment card” methodology (see, for example, Cohen, 2010;
Cohen & Piquero, 2009), which entails asking respondents whether they are willing to
pay an arbitrarily assigned dollar amount to reduce a particular crime by a certain
percentage and stops when they are not willing to pay the next higher value they are

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