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Afriat's Theorem and Samuelson's `Eternal Darkness'

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  • Matthew Polisson

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  • Ludovic Renou

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Abstract

Suppose that we have access to a finite set of expenditure data drawn from an individual consumer, i.e., how much of each good has been purchased and at what prices. Afriat (1967) was the first to establish necessary and sufficient conditions on such a data set for rationalizability by utility maximization. In this note, we provide a new and simple proof of Afriat's Theorem, the explicit steps of which help to more deeply understand the driving force behind one of the more curious features of the result itself, namely that a concave rationalization is without loss of generality in a classical finite data setting. Our proof stresses the importance of the non-uniqueness of a utility representation along with the finiteness of the data set in ensuring the existence of a concave utility function that rationalizes the data.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew Polisson & Ludovic Renou, 2016. "Afriat's Theorem and Samuelson's `Eternal Darkness'," Discussion Papers in Economics 16/09, Division of Economics, School of Business, University of Leicester.
  • Handle: RePEc:lec:leecon:16/09
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    File URL: https://www.le.ac.uk/economics/research/RePEc/lec/leecon/dp16-09.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Grech, Philip D. & Nax, Heinrich H., 2020. "Rational altruism? On preference estimation and dictator game experiments," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 309-338.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Afriat's Theorem; concavity; revealed preference; utility maximization;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C60 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - General
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory

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