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How many consumers are rational?

  • Stefan Hoderlein


    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and 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 Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies in its series CeMMAP working papers with number CWP32/09.

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Date of creation: Nov 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ifs:cemmap:32/09
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  1. Richard Blundell & Martin Browning & Ian Crawford, 1998. "Nonparametric Engel Curves and Revealed Preference," Discussion Papers 99-07, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  2. Andrew Chesher, 2003. "Identification in Nonseparable Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(5), pages 1405-1441, 09.
  3. 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.
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  6. 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.
  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. 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.
  9. Wolfgang Härdle & Werner Hildenbrand & Michael Jerison, 1989. "Empirical Evidence on the Law of Demand," Discussion Paper Serie A 264a, University of Bonn, Germany.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Martin Browning & P.A. Chiappori, 1996. "Efficient Intra-Household Allocations - A General Characterization and Empirical Tests," Discussion Papers 96-10, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
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  15. John Quah, 2000. "Weak Axiomatic Demand Theory," Economics Series Working Papers 2000-W12, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  16. 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.
  17. Arthur Lewbel, 2001. "Demand Systems with and without Errors," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 611-618, June.
  18. 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.
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  20. Richard Blundell & Joel Horowitz & Matthias Parey, 2011. "Measuring the price responsiveness of gasoline demand: economic shape restrictions and nonparametric demand estimation," CeMMAP working papers CWP24/11, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  21. Caballero, Ricardo J., 1990. "Consumption puzzles and precautionary savings," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 113-136, January.
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