Empirical Welfare Analysis for Discrete Choice: Some General Results

52 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2013 Last revised: 21 Jan 2017

Date Written: January 15, 2017


This paper develops nonparametric methods for welfare-analysis of economic changes in the common setting of multinomial choice. The results cover (a) simultaneous price-change of multiple alternatives, (b) introduction/elimination of an option, (c) changes in choice-characteristics, and (d) choice among non-exclusive alternatives. In these cases, Marshallian consumer surplus becomes path-dependent, but Hicksian welfare remains well-defined. We demonstrate that under completely unrestricted preference-heterogeneity and income-effects, the distributions of Hicksian welfare are point-identified from structural choice-probabilities in scenarios (a), (b), and only set-identified in (c), (d). Weak-separability restores point-identification in (c). In program-evaluation contexts, our results enable the calculation of compensated-effects, i.e. the program's cash-equivalent and resulting deadweight-loss. They also facilitate theoretically justified cost- benefit comparison of interventions targeting different outcomes, e.g. a tuition-subsidy and a health-product subsidy. Welfare-analyses under endogeneity is briefly discussed. An application to data on choice of fishing-mode illustrates the methods.

Keywords: Multinomial Choice, equivalent and compensating variation, unobserved heterogeneity, simultaneous price change, new alternative, non-exclusive choice, nonparametric identification, school-attendance, Indian National Sample Survey

JEL Classification: D12, D11, C14, C25

Suggested Citation

Bhattacharya, Debopam, Empirical Welfare Analysis for Discrete Choice: Some General Results (January 15, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2297257 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2297257

Debopam Bhattacharya (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge ( email )

Sidgwick Site
Austin Robinson Building
Cambridge, CB3 9DD
United Kingdom

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