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Prospective gain-loss utility: Ordered versus separated comparison


  • Pagel, Michaela


Koszegi and Rabin (2006, 2007) develop a model of expectations-based reference-dependent preferences in which the agent experiences “gain-loss utility” by comparing his actual consumption outcome to all of his previously expected consumption outcomes. Koszegi and Rabin (2009) then generalize the static model to a dynamic setting by assuming that the agent experiences both contemporaneous gain-loss utility over present consumption and “prospective” gain-loss utility by comparing his updated to his previous expectations about future consumption. Moreover, Koszegi and Rabin (2009) generalize the outcome-wise “static comparison” of gain-loss utility to a percentile-wise “ordered comparison,” in which the agent compares expected consumption outcomes at each percentile. This paper generalizes the static comparison slightly differently, to what I call a “separated comparison.” In the separated comparison, the agent compares each expected consumption outcome but experiences gain-loss utility only over uncertainty that has been realized, by effectively separating it from remaining future uncertainty. This paper shows that the separated comparison yields simple, tractable, and well-behaved equilibria in a broad class of economic models. Moreover, the equilibria are easy to solve for because the separated comparison preserves an outcome-wise linear structure.

Suggested Citation

  • Pagel, Michaela, 2019. "Prospective gain-loss utility: Ordered versus separated comparison," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 168(C), pages 62-75.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:168:y:2019:i:c:p:62-75
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2019.09.025

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    More about this item


    Expectations-based reference dependence; Prospective gain-loss utility; Endogenous and stochastic reference points;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory


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