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Preference Relativity, Ambiguity and Social Welfare Evaluation


  • Zhijun Zhao

    (Institute of Economics Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Hong Kong Institute for Monetary Research)


In the real world many social and economic decisions have to be made with imperfect information and uncertainty. In the past two decades, economists and mathematicians have devoted a great deal of time and effort into the study of ambiguity and much progress has been made in modeling ambiguity. Decision models under ambiguity have been widely used in portfolio selection, asset pricing, and risk measurement. However, few studies have been done on linking ambiguity to the social welfare function, although social welfare evaluation also faces a scarcity of information and ambiguity of income distribution. In this paper I set up a framework with policy relevance for social welfare evaluation, with the help of a model that is developed to handle income distribution ambiguity. Under some reasonable conditions the relation of income distribution to social preference is identified and the social welfare function is clearly expressed. It is shown that the social welfare functions derived from the framework are robust in form and invariant up to a monotonous increasing transformation. The framework is also flexible enough to contain many thoughtful ideas about the social welfare function.

Suggested Citation

  • Zhijun Zhao, 2011. "Preference Relativity, Ambiguity and Social Welfare Evaluation," Working Papers 352011, Hong Kong Institute for Monetary Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:hkm:wpaper:352011

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    Preference; Ambiguity; Income Distribution; Social Welfare Function;

    JEL classification:

    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement


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