Another paper from the AEA session on measuring well-being. The abstract of the paper by Erik Brynjolfsson, Felix Eggers, and Avinash Gannamaneni says,
In principle, changes in consumer surplus (compensating expenditure) provide a superior measure of changes in consumer well-being than GDP and metrics derived from it, like productivity, especially for digital goods. In practice, consumer surplus has been difficult to measure. We demonstrate the potential of massively scalable online Single Binary Discrete Choice experiments for addressing this issue. These experiments provide a measure of consumers’ willingness to accept compensation for losing access to various digital goods and thereby estimate the changes in consumer surplus from these goods. Drawing on several hundred thousand online experiments, our results indicate that digital goods have created substantial gains in well-being which are largely missed by conventional measure of GDP and productivity, and suggest that our approach can be scaled up to a broader set of goods and services. Two limitations of our methods are that they are much less precise than changes in GDP and they suffer from hypothetical bias. We show how much of an improvement in precision can be achieved with larger sample sizes and demographic controls and we document the direction and magnitude of hypothetical bias by conducting incentive compatible experiments with a smaller group of subjects. By periodically querying a large, representative sample of goods and services, including those which are not priced in existing markets, changes in consumer surplus and other new measures of well-being derived from these online choice experiments have the potential for providing cost-effective supplements to existing national income and product accounts.