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On the rationalizability of observed consumers’ choices when preferences depend on budget sets and (potentially) on anything else


  • Ennio Bilancini



We prove that defining consumers’ preferences over budget sets is both necessary and sufficient to make every fully informative and finite set of observed consumption choices rationalizable by a collection of preferences which are transitive, complete, and monotone with respect to own consumption. Our finding has two important theoretical consequences. First, assuming that preferences depend on budget sets is illegitimate under the scientific commitments of revealed preference theory. Second, as long as consumers’ preferences are not defined over budget sets, we can assume that preferences depend on observable objects other than own consumption without compromising the logical possibility to reject the model against observation. We however point out that, despite this logical possibility, in practice it can be almost impossible to reject a model where preferences are defined over objects that depend on budget sets. As an example of this we show that if preferences are defined over consumption choices of other individuals then rationalization fails only in cases of negligible practical interest.
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Suggested Citation

  • Ennio Bilancini, 2011. "On the rationalizability of observed consumers’ choices when preferences depend on budget sets and (potentially) on anything else," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 102(3), pages 275-286, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jeczfn:v:102:y:2011:i:3:p:275-286 DOI: 10.1007/s00712-010-0186-4

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Forges, Françoise & Minelli, Enrico, 2009. "Afriat's theorem for general budget sets," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(1), pages 135-145, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Robert Frank & Matthew Nagler, 2013. "On the rationalizability of observed consumers’ choices when preferences depend on budget sets: comment," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 110(2), pages 187-198, October.

    More about this item


    Revealed preferences; Budget sets; Rational preferences; Rationalizability; B40; D11;

    JEL classification:

    • B40 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - General
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory


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