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Universal Social Orderings


  • Marc Fleurbaey
  • Koichi Tadenuma


We propose the concept of a universal social ordering, defined on the set of pairs of an allocation and a preference profile of any finite population. It is meant to unify evaluations and comparisons of social states with populations of possibly different sizes with various characteristics. The universal social ordering not only evaluates policy options for a given population but also compares social welfare across populations, as in international or intertemporal comparisons of living standards. It also makes it possible to evaluate policy options which affect the size of the population or the preferences of its members. We study how to extend the theory of social choice in order to select such orderings on a rigorous axiomatic basis. Key ingredients in this analysis are attitudes with respect to population size and the bases of interpersonal comparisons.

Suggested Citation

  • Marc Fleurbaey & Koichi Tadenuma, 2009. "Universal Social Orderings," Global COE Hi-Stat Discussion Paper Series gd08-024, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
  • Handle: RePEc:hst:ghsdps:gd08-024

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Chen, Jian & Fleisher, Belton M., 1996. "Regional Income Inequality and Economic Growth in China," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 141-164, April.
    2. Fleisher, Belton & Li, Haizheng & Zhao, Min Qiang, 2010. "Human capital, economic growth, and regional inequality in China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(2), pages 215-231, July.
    3. Zhao Chen & Shiqing Jiang & Ming Lu & Hiroshi Sato, 2008. "How do Heterogeneous Social Interactions affect the Peer Effect in Rural-Urban Migration?:Empirical Evidence from China," LICOS Discussion Papers 22408, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.
    4. Rongzhu Ke & Weiying Zhang, 2003. "Trust in China: A Cross-Regional Analysis," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 2003-586, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    5. Chien-Hsun Chen & Hsiu-Ling Wu, 2005. "Determinants of regional growth disparity in China's transitional economy," Journal of Economic Studies, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 32(5), pages 406-419, October.
    6. John Knight & Li Shi, 1997. "Cumulative causation and inequality among villages in China," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 25(2), pages 149-172.
    7. Jones, Derek C. & Li, Cheng & Owen, Ann L., 2003. "Growth and regional inequality in China during the reform era," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 186-200.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pivato, Marcus, 2013. "Social welfare with incomplete ordinal interpersonal comparisons," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(5), pages 405-417.

    More about this item


    social choice; universal social orderings; maximin principle; interpersonal comparisons;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations

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