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The Value of Open Space: Evidence from Studies of Nonmarket Benefits

A review of the now quite extensive economics literature on the value of open space, this study covers more than 60 articles published in the past 25 years that use the various methodologies. The analysis focuses primarily on the value of open space in and around urbanized areas, including parks, greenbelts, natural areas and wildlife habitats, wetlands, and farmland.

The two major approaches for estimating open space value from the economics literature are the focus of this study: the so-called revealed preference methods and stated preference methods. In the first category are hedonic property value studies in which the open space value is inferred by estimating the sales price or value of a property as a function of measures of proximity to open space and other property and neighborhood characteristics.

In the second are studies that use carefully designed surveys to elicit preferences or values households place on various types of open space amenities. Both contingent valuation and contingent choice studies are reviewed.

  • Both the revealed and stated preference studies generally show that there is value to preserving most types of open space land uses, but the values tend to vary widely with the size of the area, the proximity of the open space to residences, the type of open space, and the method of analysis.
  • One conclusion drawn from this review is that the extant literature tends to be case study–specific. However, it is possible to draw conclusions from the range of studies about the direction of particular effects, how values vary by location and other influences, and the differences between the methodologies used to estimate values. In addition, suggestions are provided for areas where additional research is needed to improve valuation estimates.
  • Another conclusion drawn is that more analysis is needed about how to conduct studies with broader applicability.