Optimal Inequality behind the Veil of Ignorance
AbstractIn Rawls’ (1971) influential social contract approach to distributive justice, the fair income distribution is the one that an individual would choose behind a veil of ignorance. Harsanyi (1953, 1955, 1975) treats this situation as a decision under risk and arrives at utilitarianism using expected utility theory. This paper investigates the implications of applying prospect theory instead, which better describes behavior under risk. I find that the specific type of inequality in bottom-heavy right-skewed income distributions, which includes the log-normal income distribution, could be socially desirable. The optimal inequality result contrasts the implications of other social welfare criteria.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Uppsala University, Department of Economics in its series Working Paper Series with number 2013:7.
Length: 26 pages
Date of creation: 29 Apr 2013
Date of revision:
Contact details of provider:
Postal: Department of Economics, Uppsala University, P. O. Box 513, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
Phone: + 46 18 471 25 00
Fax: + 46 18 471 14 78
Web page: http://www.nek.uu.se/
More information through EDIRC
veil of ignorance; prospect theory; social welfare function; income inequality;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics; Underlying Principles
- D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
- D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
- D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2013-05-22 (All new papers)
- NEP-HPE-2013-05-22 (History & Philosophy of Economics)
- NEP-UPT-2013-05-22 (Utility Models & Prospect Theory)
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Matthew Rabin, 2006.
"A Model of Reference-Dependent Preferences,"
The Quarterly Journal of Economics,
MIT Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1133-1165, November.
- Koszegi, Botond & Rabin, Matthew, 2004. "A Model of Reference-Dependent Preferences," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt0w82b6nm, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
- Botond Koszegi & Matthew Rabin, 2005. "A Model of Reference-Dependent Preferences," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000341, UCLA Department of Economics.
- Botond Koszegi & Matthew Rabin, 2004. "A Model of Reference-Dependent Preferences," Method and Hist of Econ Thought 0407001, EconWPA.
- Erich Battistin & Richard Blundell & Arthur Lewbel, 2007.
"Why is consumption more log normal than income? Gibrat's law revisited,"
IFS Working Papers
W07/08, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
- Erich Battistin & Richard Blundell & Arthur Lewbel, 2009. "Why Is Consumption More Log Normal than Income? Gibrat's Law Revisited," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(6), pages 1140-1154, December.
- Erich Battistin & Richard Blundell & Arthur Lewbel, 2007. "Why is Consumption More Log Normal Than Income? Gibrat's Law Revisited," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 671, Boston College Department of Economics.
- Yoram Amiel & Frank Cowell & Wulf Gaertner, 2009.
"To be or not to be involved: a questionnaire-experimental view on Harsanyi’s utilitarian ethics,"
Social Choice and Welfare,
Springer, vol. 32(2), pages 299-316, February.
- Yoram Amiel & Frank A Cowell & Wulf Gaertner, 2006. "To Be or not To Be Involved:A Questionnaire-Experimental View on Harsanyi’sUtilitarian Ethics," STICERD - Distributional Analysis Research Programme Papers 85, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
- Neilson, William S & Stowe, Jill, 2002. " A Further Examination of Cumulative Prospect Theory Parameterizations," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 24(1), pages 31-46, January.
- Mas-Colell, Andreu & Whinston, Michael D. & Green, Jerry R., 1995. "Microeconomic Theory," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195102680.
- B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2009. "Beyond Revealed Preference: Choice-Theoretic Foundations for Behavioral Welfare Economics-super-," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(1), pages 51-104, February.
- Kahneman, Daniel & Wakker, Peter P & Sarin, Rakesh, 1997. "Back to Bentham? Explorations of Experienced Utility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 375-405, May.
- Traub, Stefan & Seidl, Christian & Schmidt, Ulrich & Levati, Maria Vittoria, 2003. "Friedman, Harsanyi, Rawls, Boulding - or Somebody Else?," Economics Working Papers 2003,03, Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, Department of Economics.
- Camerer, Colin F & Ho, Teck-Hua, 1994. "Violations of the Betweenness Axiom and Nonlinearity in Probability," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 167-96, March.
- George Wu & Richard Gonzalez, 1996. "Curvature of the Probability Weighting Function," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 42(12), pages 1676-1690, December.
- Epstein, Larry G & Segal, Uzi, 1992. "Quadratic Social Welfare Functions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(4), pages 691-712, August.
- Olof Johansson-Stenman & Fredrik Carlsson & Dinky Daruvala, 2002. "Measuring Future Grandparents" Preferences for Equality and Relative Standing," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(479), pages 362-383, April.
- Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979.
"Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk,"
Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-91, March.
- Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7656, David K. Levine.
- John C. Harsanyi, 1955. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63, pages 309.
- Drazen Prelec, 1998. "The Probability Weighting Function," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(3), pages 497-528, May.
- Stefan Traub & Christian Seidl & Ulrich Schmidt & M. Vittoria Levati, .
"Friedman, Harsanyi, Rawls, Boulding - Or Somebody Else? An Experimental Investigation of Distributive Justice,"
Papers on Strategic Interaction
2003-19, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.
- Stefan Traub & Christian Seidl & Ulrich Schmidt & Maria Levati, 2005. "Friedman, Harsanyi, Rawls, Boulding – or somebody else? An experimental investigation of distributive justice," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 283-309, 04.
- John C. Harsanyi, 1953. "Cardinal Utility in Welfare Economics and in the Theory of Risk-taking," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61, pages 434.
- Atkinson, Anthony B., 1970. "On the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 244-263, September.
- Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1992. " Advances in Prospect Theory: Cumulative Representation of Uncertainty," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 297-323, October.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Katarina Grönvall).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.