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Beyond Revealed Preference: Choice-Theoretic Foundations for Behavioral Welfare Economics-super-

  • B. Douglas Bernheim

    (Stanford University and National Bureau of Economic Research)

  • Antonio Rangel

    (California Institute of Technology and National Bureau of Economic Research)

We propose a broad generalization of standard choice-theoretic welfare economics that encompasses a wide variety of nonstandard behavioral models. Our approach exploits the coherent aspects of choice that those positive models typically attempt to capture. It replaces the standard revealed preference relation with an unambiguous choice relation: roughly, x is (strictly) unambiguously chosen over y (written xP-super-*y) iff y is never chosen when x is available. Under weak assumptions, P-super-* is acyclic and therefore suitable for welfare analysis; it is also the most discerning welfare criterion that never overrules choice. The resulting framework generates natural counterparts for the standard tools of applied welfare economics and is easily applied in the context of specific behavioral theories, with novel implications. Though not universally discerning, it lends itself to principled refinements. (c) 2009 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology..

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 124 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (February)
Pages: 51-104

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:124:y:2009:i:1:p:51-104
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