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Can I compare utilities between segments on same attribute?

I have utilities on an attribute based on a segmentation run.  Age of Children is the overarching name, with each group being a different category of ages.  If people with young children have a utility of 8 on one of the options within the attribute, and people with older children have a utility of 10, can I say that the people with older children place more value on that option than the people with young children?  Basically, are the utility values created using the same scale for all of my groups, or are they scaled differently for each group?
asked Dec 13, 2012 by anonymous
retagged Dec 13, 2012 by Walter Williams

1 Answer

+2 votes
If you are referring to raw utilities, then differences in scale usage (from ratings-based conjoint) or response error (if using CBC or ACBC) can mean that the raw utilities for the two respondent groups are not necessarily on the same scale.  For example, if people with children answer with more noise than people without children (and you are using CBC), then the raw utilities for people without children will all generally be on a larger scale (larger differences from zero).  You would be in error to directly compare the utilities between the two groups.

But, if you are looking at the "zero-centered diffs" (which are normalized utilities that give each respondent the same sum of utility ranges across attributes, as is generally reported in our market simulator software), then you are on much firmer ground if comparing the utility for the same attribute level across respondent groups.  It is generally thought that you can then do so.
answered Dec 13, 2012 by Bryan Orme Platinum Sawtooth Software, Inc. (131,990 points)