Eliciting subjective probabilities in surveys


Bio: Emilia Del Bono is Professor of Economics at the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex, and Director of the ESRC Research Centre on Micro-Social Change (https://www.iser.essex.ac.uk/misoc). Her research agenda is focused on the nature, causes, and consequences of disparities in children’s and young adults’ human capital that lead to inequalities later on in life.

Bio: Adeline specializes in various fields in Applied Economics and Econometrics, including Development Economics, Health Economics, Education Economics and Labour Economics. Her research focuses on understanding how people’s subjective beliefs and expectations about future events shape their current decisions in health, labour markets and education space. She has made major contributions to survey methodology for elicitation of such beliefs from individuals, and to economic analysis of the impact of these beliefs on people’s behavior.

Pamela Giustinelli, Bocconi

Many decisions are made under uncertainty; and individuals are likely to form subjective beliefs about the probabilities of events that are relevant for their decisions. For example; when deciding to wear a mask outside; individuals make forecast about the probability of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 with and without a mask. Asking respondents about verbal expectations (e.g. is this event 'likely?) is commonly done in surveys; but those yield only ordinal measures of beliefs. Moreover; responses may not be interpersonally comparable. These concerns lead to the elicitation of probabilistic expectations; where respondents are asked a question that can be interpreted as a probability. Such quantities are helpful to assess whether individuals have accurate expectations about the future; and can be used in economic models which require quantitative measures of beliefs. We review the state of knowledge on the elicitation of probabilistic beliefs in surveys in a conversation between Adeline Delavande (University of Technology Sydney); Pamela Giustinelli and Emilia Del Bono (University of Essex).