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Testing for Rationality with Consumption Data: Demographics and Heterogeneity

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In this paper, we introduce a new measure of how close a set of choices are to satisfying the observable implications of rational choice, and apply it to a large balanced panel of household level consumption data. We use this method to answer three related questions: (i) "How close are individual consumption choices to satisfying the model of utility maximization?" (ii) "Are there di¤erences in rationality between di¤erent demographic groups?" (iii) "Can choices be aggregated across individuals under the assumption of homogeneous preferences?" Crucially, in answering these questions, we take into account the power of budget sets faced by each household to expose failures of rationality. To summarize our results we ?nd that: (i) while observed violations of rationality are small in absolute terms, our households are only moderately more rational than the benchmark of random choice; (ii) there are signi?cant di¤erences in the rationality of di¤erent groups, with multi-head households more rational than single head households, and the youngest households more rational than middle age households; (iii) the assumption of homogenous preferences is strongly rejected: choice data that is aggregated across households exhibits high levels of irrationality.

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File URL: http://www.brown.edu/academics/economics/sites/brown.edu.academics.economics/files/uploads/2011-11_paper.pdf
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Paper provided by Brown University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2011-11.

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Date of creation: 2011
Handle: RePEc:bro:econwp:2011-11
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Department of Economics, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912

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  1. Syngjoo Choi & Shachar Kariv & Wieland M?ller & Dan Silverman, 2014. "Who Is (More) Rational?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(6), pages 1518-1550, June.
  2. Syngjoo Choi & Raymond Fisman & Douglas Gale & Shachar Kariv, 2007. "Consistency and Heterogeneity of Individual Behavior under Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(5), pages 1921-1938, December.
  3. Richard Blundell & Martin Browning & Ian Crawford, 2008. "Best Nonparametric Bounds on Demand Responses," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(6), pages 1227-1262, November.
  4. Varian, Hal R, 1982. "The Nonparametric Approach to Demand Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(4), pages 945-973, July.
  5. Stefan Hoderlein & Jörg Stoye, 2014. "Revealed Preferences in a Heterogeneous Population," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 96(2), pages 197-213, May.
  6. Jose Apesteguia & Miguel A. Ballester, 2015. "A Measure of Rationality and Welfare," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 123(6), pages 1278-1310.
  7. 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.
  8. Hoderlein, Stefan, 2011. "How many consumers are rational?," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 164(2), pages 294-309, October.
  9. Raymond Fisman & Shachar Kariv & Daniel Markovits, 2007. "Individual Preferences for Giving," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(5), pages 1858-1876, December.
  10. Bronars, Stephen G, 1987. "The Power of Nonparametric Tests of Preference Maximization [The Nonparametric Approach to Demand Analysis]," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(3), pages 693-698, May.
  11. Cherchye, Laurens & De Rock, Bram & Sabbe, Jeroen & Vermeulen, Frederic, 2008. "Nonparametric tests of collectively rational consumption behavior: An integer programming procedure," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 147(2), pages 258-265, December.
  12. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2007. "Life-Cycle Prices and Production," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(5), pages 1533-1559, December.
  13. Fabrice Talla Nobibon & Laurens Cherchye & Bram De Rock & Jeroen Sabbe & Frits Spieksma, 2011. "Heuristics for Deciding Collectively Rational Consumption Behavior," Computational Economics, Springer;Society for Computational Economics, vol. 38(2), pages 173-204, August.
  14. James Andreoni & William Harbaugh, 2005. "Power Indicies for Revealed Preference Tests," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000181, UCLA Department of Economics.
  15. Gil Kalai & Ariel Rubinstein & Ran Spiegler, 2002. "Rationalizing Choice Functions By Multiple Rationales," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(6), pages 2481-2488, November.
  16. Timothy K. M. Beatty & Ian A. Crawford, 2011. "How Demanding Is the Revealed Preference Approach to Demand?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(6), pages 2782-2795, October.
  17. Gross, John, 1995. "Testing Data for Consistency with Revealed Preference," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(4), pages 701-710, November.
  18. James Andreoni & John Miller, 2002. "Giving According to GARP: An Experimental Test of the Consistency of Preferences for Altruism," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 737-753, March.
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