Choice, Rationality and Welfare Measurement

50 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2007

See all articles by Jerry Green

Jerry Green

Harvard University, HBS Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Unit; Dept. of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Daniel Hojman

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: November 2007

Abstract

We present a method for evaluating the welfare of a decision maker, based on observed choice data. Unlike the standard economic theory of revealed preference, our method can be used whether or not the observed choices are rational. Paralleling the standard theory we present a model for choice such that the observations arise "as if" they were the result of a specific decision making process. However, in place of the usual preference relation whose maximization induces the observations, we explain choice as arising from a compromise among a set of simultaneously-held, conflicting preference relations. As in revealed preference theory, these simultaneously held preferences are inferred from the choice data and we use them as the basis to discuss the decision maker's welfare. In general our method does not yield a unique set of explanatory preferences and therefore we characterize all the explanatory sets of preferences. We use this set to compute bounds on welfare changes. We show that some standard results of rational choice theory can be extended to irrational decision makers. The theory can be used to explore a number of context-dependent choice patterns found in psychological experiments.

Keywords: welfare economics, behavioral economics, psychology and economics, voting

JEL Classification: D01, D11, D60

Suggested Citation

Green, Jerry R. and Hojman, Daniel A., Choice, Rationality and Welfare Measurement (November 2007). Harvard Institute of Economic Research Discussion Paper No. 2144; KSG Working Paper No. RWP07-054. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1030342 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1030342

Jerry R. Green (Contact Author)

Harvard University, HBS Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Unit; Dept. of Economics ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-3950 (Phone)
617-495-6859 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Daniel A. Hojman

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-384-8120 (Phone)
617-496-5747 (Fax)

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