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Identifying Preferences under Risk from Discrete Choices

  • Pierre-Andre Chiappori
  • Amit Gandhi
  • Bernard Salanie
  • Francois Salanie

When studying consumption choices, economists have often relied on the abstraction of a representative agent. Such an agent can indeed be shown to exist and to replicate the aggregate consumers' demand under standard, but not necessarily convincing assumptions (Kirman (1992)). There was also ajustifiable reluctance to introducing heterogeneous preferences, as such a step may seem ad hoc when trying to explain different consumption behaviors. The rise of empirical studies based on micro data has opened new perspectives. The micro-economic importance of uninsurable risks is now recognized, and threatens the foundations of the representative agent hypothesis often used in macroeconomics. The continuing controversies surrounding the question of individual attitudes towards risk has motivated many empirical studies and observations; most of them conclude to a bewildering diversity of individual preferences. This paper proposes to check the conditions under which heterogeneous individual attitudes toward risk can be non-parametrically identified from discrete data on choices under risk. Our main result establishes that given data that is usually available (essentially market shares of the different options, plus the realizations of the final outcomes of agents), the analyst can recover the whole distribution of individual preferences if this can be indexed by a one-dimensional parameter, provided that a fairly weak single-crossing condition holds. We then discuss several applications of our general methodology.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.99.2.356
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 99 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Pages: 356-62

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:99:y:2009:i:2:p:356-62
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.99.2.356
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  1. W. Kip Viscusi & Joseph E. Aldy, 2003. "The Value of a Statistical Life: A Critical Review of Market Estimates throughout the World," NBER Working Papers 9487, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Pierre-André Chiappori & Bruno Jullien & Bernard Salanié & François Salanié, 2002. "Asymmetric Information in Insurance : General Testable Implications," Working Papers 2002-42, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
  3. Lars Peter Hansen & Thomas J. Sargent, 2007. "Introduction to Robustness," Introductory Chapters, Princeton University Press.
  4. Sherwin Rosen, . "The Value of Changes in Life Expectancy," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 87-14, Chicago - Population Research Center.
  5. Bruno Jullien & Bernard Salanié & François Salanié, 2007. "Screening risk-averse agents under moral hazard: single-crossing and the CARA case," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 30(1), pages 151-169, January.
  6. Alma Cohen & Liran Einav, 2007. "Estimating Risk Preferences from Deductible Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 745-788, June.
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  8. Alan P. Kirman, 1992. "Whom or What Does the Representative Individual Represent?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(2), pages 117-136, Spring.
  9. Bruno Jullien & Bernard Salanie, 2000. "Estimating Preferences under Risk: The Case of Racetrack Bettors," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(3), pages 503-530, June.
  10. Syngjoo Choi & Raymond Fisman & Douglas Gale & Shachar Kariv, 2007. "Consistency and Heterogeneity of Individual Behavior under Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(5), pages 1921-1938, December.
  11. anonymous, 2007. "Bank asset growth robust, statistics show," Financial Update, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
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