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Explaining shapes of Engel curves: the impact of differential satiation dynamics on consumer behavior

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  • Leonhard Lades

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Abstract

This paper presents a formal model in which differential satiation dynamics of various consumer needs explain (not only describe) the shapes of Engel curves. In the model, individuals allocate their income to various consumption categories proportional to corresponding need deprivation states, a decision making process called matching. The model allows explaining some empirical regularities that other models have difficulties accounting for. It can, for example, reconstruct that income elasticities for food tend to decrease with rising income, and that goods that are luxuries at relatively low income levels can become necessities at higher income levels. Moreover, the paper compares the Engel curves obtained from the matching model with Engel curves obtained from a utility maximization model. While both types of Engel curves are relatively similar at high income levels, at lower income levels matching and maximization lead to very different allocations of income. The paper shows that a given amount of income redistribution leads to less additional welfare when individuals follow matching behavior than when they maximize their utility. Accordingly, to obtain a given amount of additional welfare more income redistribution is needed than a policy maker who (mistakenly) assumes that individuals rationally maximize their utility predicts. Copyright Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Leonhard Lades, 2013. "Explaining shapes of Engel curves: the impact of differential satiation dynamics on consumer behavior," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 23(5), pages 1023-1045, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:joevec:v:23:y:2013:i:5:p:1023-1045
    DOI: 10.1007/s00191-013-0324-6
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Kaus, Wolfhard, 2013. "Beyond Engel's law - A cross-country analysis," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 118-134.
    2. Andreas Chai, 2017. "Tackling Keynes’ question: a look back on 15 years of Learning To Consume," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 27(2), pages 251-271, April.
    3. Benjamin Volland, 2013. "Conscientious consumers? Preferences, personality and expenditure in the UK," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2013-05, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Consumer theory; Engel curves; Engel’s law; Matching law; Needs; D03; D11; D63; B52;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary

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