In public decision making, tradeoffs between competing goods must be made by someone other than the user. A tradeoff technique provides a means both to allow users to participate in the decision making process and to educate users about the constraints involved in making such decisions. Seventy-two female public housing tenants were asked to describe their ideal housing location in terms of 20 attributes, including preferred distance to 16 facilities and preferred quality of four features of the environment. In the tradeoff situation, they were given constrained budgets and asked to 'buy' the most satisfactory location based on these 20 attributes. The ideal and tradeoff approaches show a general agreement about attributes that should be most heavily weighted in making decisions about public housing location. The rank order of the importance of the attributes differs, however, indicating that the tradeoff method should be used to weight the importance of each attribute. Residents' responses were influenced by the availability of an automobile but were relatively little affected by the personal characteristics of race, age of children and employment status. © 1986 Academic Press Inc. (London) Limited.
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