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Revealed Preference and the Number of Commodities


  • Heufer, Jan


This work consists of two parts: First, it is shown that for a two-dimensional commodity space any homothetic utility function that rationalizes each pair of observations in a set of consumption data also rationalizes the entire set of observations. The result is stated as a pairwise version of Varian's Homothetic Axiom of Revealed Preference and is used to provide a simplified nonparametric test of homotheticity. In the second part a unifying proof technique is presented to show that the Weak Axiom of Revealed Preference (WARP) implies the Strong Axiom of Revealed Preference (SARP) for two commodities yet not for more commodities. It also shows that preference cycles can be of arbitrary length.While these results are already known, the proof here generalizes and unifies the existing ones insofar as it gives necessary and sufficient conditions for preference cycles to exist. It is then shown that in two dimensions the necessary condition cannot be fulfilled, whereas in more than two dimensions the sufficient conditions can always be met. The proof admits an intuitive understanding of the reason by giving a geometric interpretion of preference cycles as paths on indifference surfaces.

Suggested Citation

  • Heufer, Jan, 2007. "Revealed Preference and the Number of Commodities," Ruhr Economic Papers 36, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:rwirep:36

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Knoblauch, Vicki, 1992. "A Tight Upper Bound on the Money Metric Utility Function," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 660-663, June.
    2. Knoblauch, Vicki, 1993. "Recovering homothetic preferences," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 41-45.
    3. Samiran Banerjee & James Murphy, 2009. "A simplified test for preference rationality of two-commodity choice," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 12(2), pages 252-252, June.
    4. John, Reinhard, 1997. "A Simple Cycle Preserving Extension of a Demand Function," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 442-445, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jan Heufer, 2008. "Stochastic Revealed Preference and Rationalizability," Ruhr Economic Papers 0070, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
    2. repec:zbw:rwirep:0070 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Heufer, Jan, 2008. "Stochastic Revealed Preference and Rationalizability," Ruhr Economic Papers 70, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.

    More about this item


    Homotheticity; nonparametric tests; preference cycles; revealed preference; SARP; WARP;

    JEL classification:

    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General
    • C60 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - General
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis


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