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Working Paper: Focus on Babies: Evidence on Parental Attitudes Towards Pesticide Risks

Paper Number: 2004-02

Document Date: 03/18/2004

Author(s): Kelly B. Maguire, Nicole Owens and Nathalie B. Simon

Subject Area(s): Health; Valuation; Children’s Health

Keywords: risk perceptions; children’s health; health valuation; organic foods

Abstract: Studies that estimate the benefits of reduced environmental exposure typically assume that individuals know the true magnitude of the risk reduction. However, the accuracy of risk perception assumptions may be questionable. This issue has not been resolved with respect to adult risk reductions and becomes even more complicated when considering risk reductions to small children. We report results from focus groups with parents of small children regarding their risk perceptions over organic and conventional babyfood. Our results yield surprisingly consistent results between scientific and perceived risks. Previous literature reports a scientific risk reduction estimate of 1.98 per million, reflecting the reduced risk of death from cancer by avoiding pesticides in foods during the first year of life. The results from our focus groups show that parents estimate that the median risk reduction ranges from 1 to 8 per million, depending on specific demographic characteristics. Individuals with less than a four-year college degree provide the highest estimates, while women, those with more education and purchasers of organic babyfood provide lower estimates. We use these results to estimate parental willingness to pay for pesticide risk reductions to their children. Results show that parents in our focus groups who purchase organic babyfood express a value of a statistical cancer of approximately $9 million. These results provide a lower bound on the estimate for the value of reduced cancer risk from pesticide exposure in the first year of life.

Published: Maguire, Kelly B., Nicole Owens, and Nathalie Simon. 2006. "Focus on Babies:  A Note on Parental Attitudes and Preferences for Organic Babyfood," Journal of Agribusiness 24(2):187-195.

This paper is part of the Environmental Economics Working Paper Series.

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