IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Stefan Hoderlein, 2009. "How many consumers are rational?," CeMMAP working papers CWP32/09, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:ifs:cemmap:32/09

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Caballero, Ricardo J., 1990. "Consumption puzzles and precautionary savings," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 113-136, January.
    2. 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.
    3. Guido W. Imbens & Whitney K. Newey, 2009. "Identification and Estimation of Triangular Simultaneous Equations Models Without Additivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(5), pages 1481-1512, September.
    4. Arthur Lewbel, 2001. "Demand Systems with and without Errors," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 611-618, June.
    5. M. Browning & P. A. Chiappori, 1998. "Efficient Intra-Household Allocations: A General Characterization and Empirical Tests," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(6), pages 1241-1278, November.
    6. Hardle, Wolfgang & Hildenbrand, Werner & Jerison, Michael, 1991. "Empirical Evidence on the Law of Demand," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(6), pages 1525-1549, November.
    7. 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, July.
    8. John Quah, 2006. "Weak axiomatic demand theory," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 29(3), pages 677-699, November.
    9. Richard Blundell & Joel L. Horowitz & Matthias Parey, 2012. "Measuring the price responsiveness of gasoline demand: Economic shape restrictions and nonparametric demand estimation," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 3(1), pages 29-51, March.
    10. 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 933-955, July.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. Andrew Chesher, 2003. "Identification in Nonseparable Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(5), pages 1405-1441, September.
    14. Thomas M. Stoker, 1989. "Tests of Additive Derivative Constraints," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(4), pages 535-552.
    15. 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.
    16. Caballero, Ricardo J, 1991. "Earnings Uncertainty and Aggregate Wealth Accumulation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 859-871, September.
    17. Deaton, Angus, 1992. "Understanding Consumption," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288244, June.
    18. 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 971-978, September.
    19. Arthur Lewbel, 1989. "Identification and Estimation of Equivalence Scales under Weak Separability," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(2), pages 311-316.
    20. 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.
    21. Deaton, Angus S & Muellbauer, John, 1980. "An Almost Ideal Demand System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 312-326, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C12 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Hypothesis Testing: General
    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ifs:cemmap:32/09. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Emma Hyman). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.