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Rational Inattention to Discrete Choices: A New Foundation for the Multinomial Logit Model

  • Filip Matejka
  • Alisdair McKay

Often, individuals must choose among discrete alternatives with imperfect information about their values, such as selecting a job candidate, a vehicle or a university. Before choosing, they may have an opportunity to study the options, but doing so is costly. This costly information acquisition creates new choices such as the number of and types of questions to ask the job candidates. We model these situations using the tools of the rational inattention approach to information frictions (Sims, 2003). We find that the decision maker's optimal strategy results in choosing probabilistically exactly in line with the multinomial logit model. This provides a new interpretation for a workhorse model of discrete choice theory. We also study cases for which the multinomial logit is not applicable, in particular when two options are duplicates. In such cases, our model generates a generalization of the logit formula, which is free of the limitations of the standard logit.

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Paper provided by The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague in its series CERGE-EI Working Papers with number wp442.

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Date of creation: Jun 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cer:papers:wp442
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  1. Filip Matejka, 2010. "Rigid Pricing and Rationally Inattentive Consumer," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp409, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
  2. Bartosz Mackowiak & Mirko Wiederholt, 2004. "Optimal Sticky Prices under Rational Inattention," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2005-040, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany, revised Jul 2005.
  3. Stahl, D O, 1990. "Entropy Control Costs and Entropic Equilibria," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 129-38.
  4. Luigi Paciello & Mirko Wiederholt, 2011. "Exogenous Information, Endogenous Information and Optimal Monetary Policy," EIEF Working Papers Series 1104, Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF), revised Jan 2011.
  5. Luo Yulei & Young Eric R, 2009. "Rational Inattention and Aggregate Fluctuations," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 9(1), pages 1-43, April.
  6. McFadden, Daniel L., 2000. "Economic Choices," Nobel Prize in Economics documents 2000-6, Nobel Prize Committee.
  7. Sims, Christopher A., 2003. "Implications of rational inattention," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 665-690, April.
  8. Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh & Laura Veldkamp, 2008. "Information Acquisition and Under-Diversification," NBER Working Papers 13904, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Yulei Luo, 2008. "Consumption Dynamics under Information Processing Constraints," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 11(2), pages 366-385, April.
  10. Jörgen Weibull & Lars-Göran Mattsson & Mark Voorneveld, 2007. "Better May be Worse: Some Monotonicity Results and Paradoxes in Discrete Choice Under Uncertainty," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 63(2), pages 121-151, September.
  11. Maćkowiak, Bartosz & Wiederholt, Mirko, 2011. "Business cycle dynamics under rational inattention," Working Paper Series 1331, European Central Bank.
  12. Mondria, Jordi, 2010. "Portfolio choice, attention allocation, and price comovement," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 145(5), pages 1837-1864, September.
  13. Train,Kenneth E., 2009. "Discrete Choice Methods with Simulation," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521747387.
  14. Filip Matejka, 2010. "Rationally Inattentive Seller: Sales and Discrete Pricing," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp408, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
  15. Faruk Gul & Paulo Natenzon & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2014. "Random Choice as Behavioral Optimization," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82, pages 1873-1912, 09.
  16. R. McKelvey & T. Palfrey, 2010. "Quantal Response Equilibria for Normal Form Games," Levine's Working Paper Archive 510, David K. Levine.
  17. Tutino, Antonella, 2008. "The rigidity of choice: lifetime savings under information-processing constraints," MPRA Paper 16744, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 24 Jul 2009.
  18. Christopher A. Sims, 2006. "Rational Inattention: Beyond the Linear-Quadratic Case," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 158-163, May.
  19. Anas, Alex, 1983. "Discrete choice theory, information theory and the multinomial logit and gravity models," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 13-23, February.
  20. Mattsson, Lars-Göran & Voorneveld, Mark & Weibull, Jörgen W., 2004. "Better may be worse: Some monotonicity results and paradoxes in discrete choice," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 558, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 21 Apr 2004.
  21. Mattsson, Lars-Goran & Weibull, Jorgen W., 2002. "Probabilistic choice and procedurally bounded rationality," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 61-78, October.
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