Whom or What Does the Representative Individual Represent?
Macroeconomic models often assume that the choices of all the diverse agents in one sector—consumers for example—can be considered as the choices of one "representative" standard utility maximizing individual whose choices coincide with the aggregate choices of the heterogeneous individuals. My basic point is that the reduction of the behavior of a group of heterogeneous agents even if they are all themselves utility maximizers, is not simply an analytical convenience as often explained, but is both unjustified and leads to conclusions which are usually misleading and often wrong. First, such models are particularly ill-suited to studying macroeconomic problems like unemployment, which should be viewed as coordination failures. Furthermore these models, instead of being a hive of activity and exchange, are frequently, ones in which no trade at all takes place. And this is just the beginning of a list of problems with this approach. Finally I will consider more positive alternatives to the representative individual approach—approaches that focus on heterogeneity of agents may and interaction between individuals. It is clear that the "representative" agent deserves a decent burial, as an approach to economic analysis that is not only primitive, but fundamentally erroneous.
Volume (Year): 6 (1992)
Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
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References listed on IDEAS
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.:
- Michael Jerison, 1997.
"Nonrepresentative Representative Consumers,"
97-01, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics.
- Michael Jerison, 2006. "Nonrepresentative Representative Consumers," Discussion Papers 06-08, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics.
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- Quah, Danny, 1990. "Permanent and Transitory Movements in Labor Income: An Explanation for "Excess Smoothness" in Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(3), pages 449-475, June.
- Quah, D., 1989. "Permanent And Transitory Movements In Labor Income: An Explanation For "Excess Smoothness" In Consumption," Working papers 535, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
- Lau, Lawrence J., 1982. "A note on the fundamental theorem of exact aggregation," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 119-126. Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)
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