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Consumption Basics Microeconomia III (Lecture 5) Tratto da Cowell F. (2004), Principles of Microeoconomics

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Overview... The setting Budget sets Revealed Preference (not in the program) Axiomatic Approach Consumption: Basics The environment for the basic consumer optimisation problem.

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A method of analysis Some treatments of micro-economics handle consumer analysis first. Some treatments of micro-economics handle consumer analysis first. But we have gone through the theory of the firm first for a good reason: But we have gone through the theory of the firm first for a good reason: We can learn a lot from the ideas and techniques in the theory of the firm… We can learn a lot from the ideas and techniques in the theory of the firm… …and reuse them. …and reuse them.

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Reusing results from the firm What could we learn from the way we analysed the firm....? What could we learn from the way we analysed the firm....? How to set up the description of the environment. How to set up the description of the environment. How to model optimisation problems. How to model optimisation problems. How solutions may be carried over from one problem to the other How solutions may be carried over from one problem to the other...and more....and more. Begin with notation

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Notation Quantities xixi amount of commodity i x = (x 1, x 2,..., x n ) commodity vector consumption set X Prices pipi price of commodity i p = (p 1, p 2,..., p n ) price vector income y x X denotes feasibility a “basket of goods

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Things that shape the consumer's problem The set and the number y are both important. The set X and the number y are both important. But they deal two distinct types of constraint. But they deal two distinct types of constraint. We'll save y for later and handle now. We'll save y for later and handle X now. (And we haven't said anything yet about objectives...) (And we haven't said anything yet about objectives...)

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The consumption set The set describes the basic entities of the consumption problem. The set X describes the basic entities of the consumption problem. Not a description of the consumer’s opportunities. Not a description of the consumer’s opportunities. That comes later. Use it to make clear the type of choice problem we are dealing with; for example: Use it to make clear the type of choice problem we are dealing with; for example: Discrete versus continuous choice (refrigerators vs. contents of refrigerators) Is negative consumption ruled out? “x ” means “x belongs the set of logically feasible baskets.” “x X ” means “x belongs the set of logically feasible baskets.”

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The set X: standard assumptions x1x1 Axes indicate quantities of the two goods x 1 and x 2. x2x2 Usually assume that X consists of the whole non- negative orthant. Zero consumptions make good economic sense But negative consumptions ruled out by definition no points here… …or here Consumption goods are (theoretically) divisible… …and indefinitely extendable… But only in the ++ direction

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Rules out this case... x1x1 Consumption set X consists of a countable number of points x2x2 Conventional assumption does not allow for indivisible objects. But suitably modified assumptions may be appropriate

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... and this x1x1 Consumption set X has holes in it x2x2

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... and this x1x1 Consumption set X has the restriction x 1 < x x2x2 Conventional assumption does not allow for physical upper bounds But there are several economic applications where this is relevant ˉ xˉ

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Overview... The setting Budget sets Axiomatic Approach Consumption: Basics Budget constraints: prices, incomes and resources

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The budget constraint x1x1 Slope is determined by price ratio. x2x2 Two important subcases determined by 1. 1.… amount of money income y …vector of resources R p 1 – __ p 2 p 1 – __ p 2 The budget constraint typically looks like this “Distance out” of budget line fixed by income or resources Let’s see

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Case 1: fixed nominal income x1x1 x2x2 Budget constraint determined by the two end- points Examine the effect of changing p 1 by “swinging” the boundary thus… y.. __ p 2 y.. __ p 2 y.. __ p 1 y.. __ p 1 Budget constraint is n p i x i ≤ y i=1

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x1x1 x2x2 Case 2: fixed resource endowment RR n y = p i R i i=1 n y = p i R i i=1 Budget constraint determined by location of “resources” endowment R. Examine the effect of changing p 1 by “swinging” the boundary thus… Budget constraint is n n p i x i ≤ p i R i i=1

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Budget constraint: Key points Slope of the budget constraint given by price ratio. Slope of the budget constraint given by price ratio. There is more than one way of specifying “income”: There is more than one way of specifying “income”: Determined exogenously as an amount y. Determined endogenously from resources. The exact specification can affect behaviour when prices change. The exact specification can affect behaviour when prices change. Take care when income is endogenous. Value of income is determined by prices.

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Overview... The setting Budget sets Axiomatic Approach Consumption: Basics Standard approach to modelling preferences

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A basic problem In the case of the firm we have an observable constraint set (input requirement set)… In the case of the firm we have an observable constraint set (input requirement set)… …and we can reasonably assume an obvious objective function (profits) …and we can reasonably assume an obvious objective function (profits) But, for the consumer it is more difficult. But, for the consumer it is more difficult. We have an observable constraint set (budget set)… We have an observable constraint set (budget set)… But what objective function? But what objective function?

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The Axiomatic Approach We could “invent” an objective function. We could “invent” an objective function. This is more reasonable than it may sound: This is more reasonable than it may sound: It is the standard approach. See later in this presentation. But some argue that we should only use what we can observe: But some argue that we should only use what we can observe: Test from market data? The “revealed preference” approach.

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The Revealed Preferences Approach (not in the program) Model the opportunities faced by a consumer. Model the opportunities faced by a consumer. Observe the choices made. Observe the choices made. Introduce some minimal “consistency” axioms. Introduce some minimal “consistency” axioms. Use them to derive testable predictions about consumer behaviour Use them to derive testable predictions about consumer behaviour

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The Axiomatic Approach Useful for setting out a priori what we mean by consumer preferences. Useful for setting out a priori what we mean by consumer preferences. But, be careful... But, be careful......axioms can't be “right” or “wrong,”......axioms can't be “right” or “wrong,” although they could be inappropriate or over-restrictive.... although they could be inappropriate or over-restrictive. That depends on what you want to model. That depends on what you want to model. Let's start with the basic relation... Let's start with the basic relation...

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The (weak) preference relation The basic weak-preference relation: x x' "Basket x is regarded as at least as good as basket x'..." …and the strict preference relation… x > x' “ x x' ” and not “ x' x. ” From this we can derive the indifference relation. x ~ x' “ x x' ” and “ x' x. ”

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Fundamental preference axioms Completeness Completeness Transitivity Transitivity Continuity Continuity Greed Greed (Strict) Quasi-concavity (Strict) Quasi-concavity Smoothness Smoothness For every x, x' X either x x' is true, or x' x is true, or both statements are true

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Fundamental preference axioms Completeness Completeness Transitivity Transitivity Continuity Continuity Greed Greed (Strict) Quasi-concavity (Strict) Quasi-concavity Smoothness Smoothness For all x, x', x″ X if x x' and x‘ x″ then x x″.

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Fundamental preference axioms Completeness Completeness Transitivity Transitivity Continuity Continuity Greed Greed (Strict) Quasi-concavity (Strict) Quasi-concavity Smoothness Smoothness For all x' X the not-better-than-x' set and the not-worse-than-x' set are closed in X

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x1x1 x2x2 Better than x ? Continuity: an example Take consumption bundle x°. Construct two other bundles, x L with Less than x°, x M with More There is a set of points like x L, and a set like x M Draw a path joining x L, x M. If there’s no “jump”… The indifference curve l l x° Worse than x ? l l x L l l x M but what about the boundary points between the two? do we jump straight from a point marked “better” to one marked “worse"?

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Axioms 1 to 3 are crucial... The utility function l l completeness l l transitivity l l continuity

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A continuous utility function then represents preferences... U(x) U(x') x x'

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Tricks with utility functions U-functions represent preference orderings. U-functions represent preference orderings. So the utility scales don’t matter. So the utility scales don’t matter. And you can transform the U-function in any (monotonic) way you want... And you can transform the U-function in any (monotonic) way you want...

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Irrelevance of cardinalisation So take any utility function... And, for any monotone increasing φ, this represents the same preferences. …and so do both of these φ( U(x 1, x 2,..., x n ) ) l l U(x 1, x 2,..., x n ) ( U(x 1, x 2,..., x n ) ) exp ( U(x 1, x 2,..., x n ) ) This transformation represents the same preferences... log ( U(x 1, x 2,..., x n ) ) U is defined up to a monotonic transformation Each of these forms will generate the same contours. Let’s view this graphically.

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A utility function 0 x2x2 x1x1 Take a slice at given utility level Project down to get contours U(x1,x2)U(x1,x2) U(x1,x2)U(x1,x2) The indifference curve

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Another utility function 0 x2x2 x1x1 Again take a slice… Project down … U*(x 1,x 2 ) The same indifference curve By construction U* = φ(U)

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Assumptions to give the U-function shape Completeness Completeness Transitivity Transitivity Continuity Continuity Greed Greed (Strict) Quasi-concavity (Strict) Quasi-concavity Smoothness Smoothness

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The greed axiom x1x1 increasing preference Pick any consumption bundle in X. x'x' ll ll Gives a clear “North-East” direction of preference. x2x2 What can happen if consumers are not greedy increasing preference l l B Increasing preference Increasing preference increasing preference Greed implies that these bundles are preferred to x'. l l Bliss!

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A key mathematical concept We’ve previously used the concept of concavity: We’ve previously used the concept of concavity: Shape of the production function. But here simple concavity is inappropriate: But here simple concavity is inappropriate: The U-function is defined only up to a monotonic transformation. U may be concave and U 2 non-concave even though they represent the same preferences. So we use the concept of “quasi-concavity”: So we use the concept of “quasi-concavity”: “Quasi-concave” is equivalently known as “concave contoured”. A concave-contoured function has the same contours as a concave function (the above example). Somewhat confusingly, when you draw the IC in (x 1,x 2 )-space, common parlance describes these as “convex to the origin.” It’s important to get your head round this: It’s important to get your head round this: Some examples of ICs coming up… Review Example Review Example

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sometimes these assumptions can be relaxed ICs are smooth …and strictly concaved- contoured I.e. strictly quasiconcave Pick two points on the same indifference curve. x1x1 x2x2 Draw the line joining them. Any interior point must line on a higher indifference curve Conventionally shaped indifference curves (-) Slope is the Marginal Rate of Substitution U 1 (x). ——. U 2 (x). (-) Slope is the Marginal Rate of Substitution U 1 (x). ——. U 2 (x). increasing preference l l C llAllA llBllB Slope well-defined everywhere

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Other types of IC: Kinks x1x1 x2x2 Strictly quasiconcave l l C llAllA llBllB But not everywhere smooth MRS not defined here

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Other types of IC: not strictly quasiconcave x2x2 Slope well-defined everywhere Indifference curves with flat sections make sense But may be a little harder to work with... l l C llAllA llBllB utility here lower than at A or B Not quasiconcave Quasiconcave but not strictly quasiconcave x1x1 Indifference curve follows axis here

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Summary: why preferences can be a problem Unlike firms there is no “obvious” objective function. Unlike firms there is no “obvious” objective function. Unlike firms there is no observable objective function. Unlike firms there is no observable objective function. And who is to say what constitutes a “good” assumption about preferences...? And who is to say what constitutes a “good” assumption about preferences...?

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Review: basic concepts Consumer’s environment Consumer’s environment How budget sets work How budget sets work Axioms that give you a utility function Axioms that give you a utility function Axioms that determine its shape Axioms that determine its shape Review

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What next? Setting up consumer’s optimisation problem Setting up consumer’s optimisation problem Comparison with that of the firm Comparison with that of the firm Solution concepts. Solution concepts.

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