IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/aea/jecper/v6y1992i2p117-36.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Whom or What Does the Representative Individual Represent?

Author

Listed:
  • Alan P. Kirman

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:6:y:1992:i:2:p:117-36
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.6.2.117
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.6.2.117
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Caplin, Andrew & Nalebuff, Barry, 1991. "Aggregation and Imperfect Competition: On the Existence of Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(1), pages 25-59, January.
    2. A. P. Kirman & K. J. Koch, 1986. "Market Excess Demand in Exchange Economies with Identical Preferences and Collinear Endowments," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 53(3), pages 457-463.
    3. Timothy J. Kehoe, 1985. "Multiplicity of Equilibria and Comparative Statics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(1), pages 119-147.
    4. Hakansson, Nils H & Kunkel, J Gregory & Ohlson, James A, 1982. "Sufficient and Necessary Conditions for Information to Have Social Value in Pure Exchange," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 37(5), pages 1169-1181, December.
    5. Debreu, Gerard, 1974. "Excess demand functions," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 15-21, March.
    6. Arthur Lewbel, 1989. "Exact Aggregation and a Representative Consumer," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 104(3), pages 621-633.
    7. Mantel, Rolf R., 1976. "Homothetic preferences and community excess demand functions," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 197-201, April.
    8. Michael Jerison, 1997. "Nonrepresentative Representative Consumers," Discussion Papers 97-01, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics.
    9. 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.
    10. E. Eisenberg, 1961. "Aggregation of Utility Functions," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 7(4), pages 337-350, July.
    11. Kirman, Alan P & Oddou, Claude & Weber, Shlomo, 1986. "Stochastic Communication and Coalition Formation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(1), pages 129-138, January.
    12. Summers, Lawrence H, 1991. " The Scientific Illusion in Empirical Macroeconomics," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 93(2), pages 129-148.
    13. Lippi, Marco, 1988. "On the dynamic shape of aggregated error correction models," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 12(2-3), pages 561-585.
    14. Sah, Raaj K, 1991. "Social Osmosis and Patterns of Crime," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(6), pages 1272-1295, December.
    15. Bruce C. Greenwald & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1986. "Externalities in Economies with Imperfect Information and Incomplete Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(2), pages 229-264.
    16. 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)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Alexis Akira Toda & Kieran James Walsh, 2017. "Edgeworth box economies with multiple equilibria," Economic Theory Bulletin, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 5(1), pages 65-80, April.
    2. Kesavan, Thulasiram, 1988. "Monte Carlo experiments of market demand theory," ISU General Staff Papers 198801010800009854, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    3. Simone Landini & Mauro Gallegati & J. Barkley Rosser, 2020. "Consistency and incompleteness in general equilibrium theory," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 30(1), pages 205-230, January.
    4. JÊrÆme B. Detemple & Piero Gottardi, 1998. "Aggregation, efficiency and mutual fund separation in incomplete markets," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 11(2), pages 443-455.
    5. Loffler, Andreas, 1999. "Debreu's decomposition and aggregate demand functions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 217-223, May.
    6. Marchionatti, Roberto & Sella, Lisa, 2015. "Is Neo-Walrasian Macroeconomics a Dead End?," CESMEP Working Papers 201502, University of Turin.
    7. Edward E. Schlee, 2001. "The Value of Information in Efficient Risk-Sharing Arrangements," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 509-524, June.
    8. Lehmann-Waffenschmidt, Marco, 1995. "On the equilibrium price set of a continuous perturbation of exchange economies," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(5), pages 497-519.
    9. Hardle, Wolfgang & Kirman, Alan, 1995. "Nonclassical demand : A model-free examination of price-quantity relations in the Marseille fish market," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 227-257, May.
    10. Maria D. Tito, 2015. "Welfare Evaluation in a Heterogeneous Agent Model: How Representative is the CES Representative Consumer?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2015-109, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    11. Thorsten Hens, "undated". "An Extension of Mantel (1976) to Incomplete Markets," IEW - Working Papers 071, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    12. Aad Ruiter, 2020. "Approximating Walrasian Equilibria," Computational Economics, Springer;Society for Computational Economics, vol. 55(2), pages 577-596, February.
    13. Erhard Glötzl & Florentin Glötzl & Oliver Richters, 2019. "From constrained optimization to constrained dynamics: extending analogies between economics and mechanics," Journal of Economic Interaction and Coordination, Springer;Society for Economic Science with Heterogeneous Interacting Agents, vol. 14(3), pages 623-642, September.
    14. Eric Kemp-Benedict, 2011. "Second-Order, Dissipative T\^atonnement: Economic Interpretation and 2-Point Limit Cycles," Papers 1108.0188, arXiv.org, revised Aug 2011.
    15. G. Fagiolo & A. Roventini., 2009. "On the Scientific Status of Economic Policy: A Tale of Alternative Paradigms," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 6.
    16. Piero Gottardi & Rohit Rahi, 2007. "Value of Information in Competitive Economies with Incomplete Markets," Working Papers 2007_25, Department of Economics, University of Venice "Ca' Foscari".
    17. Chiappori, Pierre-Andre & Ekeland, Ivar & Browning, Martin, 2007. "Local disaggregation of negative demand and excess demand functions," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(6), pages 764-770, August.
    18. Hens, Thorsten, 2001. "An extension of Mantel (1976) to incomplete markets," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 141-149, November.
    19. W D A Bryant, 2009. "General Equilibrium:Theory and Evidence," World Scientific Books, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., number 6875, December.
    20. Chiappori, P. A. & Ekeland, I., 2004. "Individual excess demands," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1-2), pages 41-57, February.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E10 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - General

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:6:y:1992:i:2:p:117-36. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Michael P. Albert (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.