Its not that I dont care, I just dont care very much: confounding between attribute non-attendance and taste heterogeneity
With the growing interest in the topic of attribute non-attendance, there is now widespread use of latent class (LC) structures aimed at capturing such behaviour, across a number of different fields. Specifically, these studies rely on a confirmatory LC model, using two separate values for each coefficient, one of which is fixed to zero while the other is estimated, and then use the obtained class probabilities as an indication of the degree of attribute non-attendance. In the present paper, we argue that this approach is in fact misguided, and that the results are likely to be affected by confounding with regular taste heterogeneity. We contrast the confirmatory model with an exploratory LC structure in which the values in both classes are estimated. We also put forward a combined latent class mixed logit model (LC-MMNL) which allows jointly for attribute non-attendance and for continuous taste heterogeneity. Across three separate case studies, the exploratory LC model clearly rejects the confirmatory LC approach and suggests that rates of non-attendance may be much lower than what is suggested by the standard model, or even zero. The combined LC-MMNL model similarly produces significant improvements in model fit, along with substantial reductions in the implied rate of attribute non-attendance, in some cases even eliminating the phenomena across the sample population. Our results thus call for a reappraisal of the large body of recent work that has implied high rates of attribute non-attendance for some attributes. Finally, we also highlight a number of general issues with attribute non-attendance, in particular relating to the computation of willingness to pay measures.