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Do social preferences matter in competitive markets?

Author

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  • Heidhues, Paul

    (Center for Mathematical Economics, Bielefeld University)

  • Riedel, Frank

    (Center for Mathematical Economics, Bielefeld University)

Abstract

Experimental evidence stresses the importance of so-called social preferences for understanding economic behavior. Social preferences are defined over the entire allocation in a given economic environment, and not just over one's own consumption as is traditionally presumed. We study the implications for competitive market outcomes if agents have such preferences. First, we clarify under what conditions an agent behaves as if she was selfish - i.e. when her demand function is independent of others' behavior. An agent behaves as if selfish if and only if her preferences can be represented by a utility function that is separable between her own utility and the allocation of goods for all other agents. Next, we study equilibrium outcomes in economies where individual agents behave as if selfish. We how that one can identify a corresponding ego-economy such that the equilibria of the ego-economy coincide with the equilibria of the original economy. As a consequence, competitive equilibria exist and they are material efficient. In general, however, the First Welfare Theorem fails. We introduce the class of Bergsonian social utility functions, which are social utility functions that are completely separable in all agents' material utility. For such social preferences, the Second Welfare Theorem holds under a suitable growth condition. We also establish that in uncertain environments, agents with social preferences typically do not behave as if selfish. Furthermore, in the presence of public goods, both demand and equilibrium outcomes depend on social preferences.

Suggested Citation

  • Heidhues, Paul & Riedel, Frank, 2011. "Do social preferences matter in competitive markets?," Center for Mathematical Economics Working Papers 392, Center for Mathematical Economics, Bielefeld University.
  • Handle: RePEc:bie:wpaper:392
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    File URL: https://pub.uni-bielefeld.de/download/2315688/2319836
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 817-869.
    2. Dufwenberg, Martin & Kirchsteiger, Georg, 2004. "A theory of sequential reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 268-298, May.
    3. David K. Levine, 1998. "Modeling Altruism and Spitefulness in Experiment," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(3), pages 593-622, July.
    4. Falk, Armin & Fischbacher, Urs, 2006. "A theory of reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 293-315, February.
    5. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
    6. Collard, David, 1975. "Edgeworth's Propositions on Altruism," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 85(338), pages 355-360, June.
    7. Borglin, Anders, 1973. "Price characterization of stable allocations in exchange economies with externalities," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 6(5), pages 483-494, October.
    8. Hochman, Harold M & Rodgers, James D, 1969. "Pareto Optimal Redistribution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(4), pages 542-557, Part I Se.
    9. Rader, Trout, 1980. "The second theorem of welfare economics when utilities are interdependent," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 420-424, December.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Jean-Marc Bonnisseau & Elena Mercato, 2010. "Externalities, consumption constraints and regular economies," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 44(1), pages 123-147, July.
    2. Antoine Billot & Chantal Marlats, 2009. "Préferences psychologiques et nouvelle économie politique," Working Papers halshs-00566146, HAL.
    3. Baghestanian, Sascha & Gortner, Paul J. & van der Weele, Joël J., 2014. "Peer effects and risk sharing in experimental asset markets," SAFE Working Paper Series 67, Research Center SAFE - Sustainable Architecture for Finance in Europe, Goethe University Frankfurt.
    4. Martin Dufwenberg & Paul Heidhues & Georg Kirchsteiger & Frank Riedel & Joel Sobel, 2011. "Other-Regarding Preferences in General Equilibrium," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 78(2), pages 613-639.
    5. Antoine Billot & Chantal Marlats, 2009. "Préferences psychologiques et nouvelle économie politique," PSE Working Papers halshs-00566146, HAL.

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