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How Many Consumers are Rational?

  • Stefan Hoderlein

    (Boston College)

Rationality places strong restrictions on individual consumer behavior. This paper is concerned with assessing the validity of the integrability constraints imposed by standard utility maximization, arising in classical consumer demand analysis. More specifically, we characterize the testable implications of negative semidefiniteness and symmetry of the Slutsky matrix across a heterogeneous population without assuming anything on the functional form of individual preferences. In the same spirit, homogeneity of degree zero is being considered. Our approach employs nonseparable models and is centered around a conditional independence assumption, which is sufficiently general to allow for endogenous regressors. It is the only substantial assumption a researcher has to specify in this model, and has to be evaluated with particular care. Finally, we apply all concepts to British household data: We show that rationality is an acceptable description for large parts of the population, regardless of whether we test on single or composite households.

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Paper provided by Boston College Department of Economics in its series Boston College Working Papers in Economics with number 748.

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Date of creation: 20 Oct 2009
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Handle: RePEc:boc:bocoec:748
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  1. Hoderlein, Stefan & Mihaleva, Sonya, 2008. "Increasing the price variation in a repeated cross section," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 147(2), pages 316-325, December.
  2. Caballero, Ricardo J., 1990. "Consumption puzzles and precautionary savings," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 113-136, January.
  3. Fortin, Bernard & Lacroix, Guy, 1997. "A Test of the Unitary and Collective Models of Household Labour Supply," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(443), pages 933-55, July.
  4. Haag, Berthold R. & Hoderlein, Stefan & Pendakur, Krishna, 2009. "Testing and imposing Slutsky symmetry in nonparametric demand systems," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 153(1), pages 33-50, November.
  5. Andrew Chesher, 2003. "Identification in Nonseparable Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(5), pages 1405-1441, 09.
  6. Richard Blundell & Xiaohong Chen & Dennis Kristensen, 2007. "Semi-Nonparametric IV Estimation of Shape-Invariant Engel Curves," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(6), pages 1613-1669, November.
  7. Lewbel, Arthur, 1989. "Identification and Estimation of Equivalence Scales under Weak Separability," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 56(2), pages 311-16, April.
  8. Caballero, Ricardo J, 1991. "Earnings Uncertainty and Aggregate Wealth Accumulation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 859-71, September.
  9. Richard W. Blundell & Martin Browning & Ian A. Crawford, 2003. "Nonparametric Engel Curves and Revealed Preference," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(1), pages 205-240, January.
  10. Richard Blundell & Joel L. Horowitz & Matthias Parey, 2012. "Measuring the price responsiveness of gasoline demand: Economic shape restrictions and nonparametric demand estimation," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 3(1), pages 29-51, 03.
  11. Deaton, Angus, 1992. "Understanding Consumption," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288244.
  12. Hardle, Wolfgang & Hildenbrand, Werner & Jerison, Michael, 1991. "Empirical Evidence on the Law of Demand," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(6), pages 1525-49, November.
  13. Joseph G. Altonji & Rosa L. Matzkin, 2005. "Cross Section and Panel Data Estimators for Nonseparable Models with Endogenous Regressors," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(4), pages 1053-1102, 07.
  14. Quah, J.K.-H., 2000. "Weak Axiomatic Demand Theory," Economics Papers 2000-w12, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  15. Kihlstrom, Richard E & Mas-Colell, Andreu & Sonnenschein, Hugo, 1976. "The Demand Theory of the Weak Axiom of Revealed Preference," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 44(5), pages 971-78, September.
  16. Guido W. Imbens & Whitney K. Newey, 2002. "Identification and Estimation of Triangular Simultaneous Equations Models Without Additivity," NBER Technical Working Papers 0285, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Browning, M. & Chiappori, P.A., 1994. "Efficient Intra-Household allocations: A General Characterization and Empirical Tests," DELTA Working Papers 94-16, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  18. Arthur Lewbel, 2001. "Demand Systems with and without Errors," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 611-618, June.
  19. Hoderlein, Stefan & Klemelä, Jussi & Mammen, Enno, 2010. "Analyzing The Random Coefficient Model Nonparametrically," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 26(03), pages 804-837, June.
  20. Deaton, Angus S & Muellbauer, John, 1980. "An Almost Ideal Demand System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 312-26, June.
  21. Stoker, Thomas M, 1989. "Tests of Additive Derivative Constraints," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 56(4), pages 535-52, October.
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