How much would I have to pay you to give up Facebook? What about e-mail? Or access to search engines? I found myself asking these questions of myself during my recent trip to China, where several familiar services are blocked. But the answers to those questions have a lot to teach us, both about how the economy is doing and about how we might regulate these new digital services.
A new research paper from three economists - Erik Brynjolfsson, Felix Eggers and Avinash Gannamaneni - attempts to measure exactly what services such as Facebook are worth to us. They offered various experimental subjects (adult US residents) the possibility of a cash payment if they quit the social media network for a month, observing which offers were rejected or accepted.