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Chapter Four Utility

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Utility Functions u A preference relation that is complete, reflexive, transitive and continuous can be represented by a continuous utility function. u Continuity means that small changes to a consumption bundle cause only small changes to the preference level.

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Utility Functions A utility function U(x) represents a preference relation if and only if: x’ x” U(x’) > U(x”) x’ x” U(x’) < U(x”) x’ x” U(x’) = U(x”). ~

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Utility Functions u Utility is an ordinal (i.e. ordering) concept. u E.g. if U(x) = 6 and U(y) = 2 then bundle x is strictly preferred to bundle y. But x is not preferred three times as much as is y.

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Utility Functions & Indiff. Curves u Consider the bundles (4,1), (2,3) and (2,2). Suppose (2,3) (4,1) (2,2). u Assign to these bundles any numbers that preserve the preference ordering; e.g. U(2,3) = 6 > U(4,1) = U(2,2) = 4. u Call these numbers utility levels.

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Utility Functions & Indiff. Curves u An indifference curve contains equally preferred bundles. u Equal preference same utility level. u Therefore, all bundles in an indifference curve have the same utility level.

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Utility Functions & Indiff. Curves U 6 U 4 U 2 x1x1 x2x2

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Utility Functions u There is no unique utility function representation of a preference relation. u Suppose U(x 1,x 2 ) = x 1 x 2 represents a preference relation. u Again consider the bundles (4,1), (2,3) and (2,2).

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Utility Functions U(x 1,x 2 ) = x 1 x 2, so U(2,3) = 6 > U(4,1) = U(2,2) = 4; that is, (2,3) (4,1) (2,2).

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Utility Functions u If –U is a utility function that represents a preference relation and – f is a strictly increasing function, u then V = f(U) is also a utility function representing. ~ ~

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Some Other Utility Functions and Their Indifference Curves u Instead of U(x 1,x 2 ) = x 1 x 2 consider V(x 1,x 2 ) = x 1 + x 2. What do the indifference curves for this “perfect substitution” utility function look like?

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Perfect Substitution Indifference Curves 5 5 9 9 13 x1x1 x2x2 x 1 + x 2 = 5 x 1 + x 2 = 9 x 1 + x 2 = 13 All are linear and parallel. V(x 1,x 2 ) = x 1 + x 2.

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Some Other Utility Functions and Their Indifference Curves u Instead of U(x 1,x 2 ) = x 1 x 2 or V(x 1,x 2 ) = x 1 + x 2, consider W(x 1,x 2 ) = min{x 1,x 2 }. What do the indifference curves for this “perfect complementarity” utility function look like?

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Perfect Complementarity Indifference Curves x2x2 x1x1 45 o min{x 1,x 2 } = 8 3 5 8 3 5 8 min{x 1,x 2 } = 5 min{x 1,x 2 } = 3 All are right-angled with vertices on a ray from the origin. W(x 1,x 2 ) = min{x 1,x 2 }

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Some Other Utility Functions and Their Indifference Curves u A utility function of the form U(x 1,x 2 ) = f(x 1 ) + x 2 is linear in just x 2 and is called quasi- linear. u E.g. U(x 1,x 2 ) = 2x 1 1/2 + x 2.

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Quasi-linear Indifference Curves x2x2 x1x1 Each curve is a vertically shifted copy of the others.

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Marginal Utilities u Marginal means “incremental”. u The marginal utility of commodity i is the rate-of-change of total utility as the quantity of commodity i consumed changes; i.e.

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Marginal Utilities u E.g. if U(x 1,x 2 ) = x 1 1/2 x 2 2 then

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Marginal Utilities u E.g. if U(x 1,x 2 ) = x 1 1/2 x 2 2 then

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Marginal Utilities and Marginal Rates-of-Substitution The general equation for an indifference curve is U(x 1,x 2 ) k, a constant. Totally differentiating this identity gives

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Marginal Utilities and Marginal Rates-of-Substitution rearranged is And This is the MRS.

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Marg. Utilities & Marg. Rates-of- Substitution; An example u Suppose U(x 1,x 2 ) = x 1 x 2. Then so

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Marg. Utilities & Marg. Rates-of- Substitution; An example MRS(1,8) = - 8/1 = -8 MRS(6,6) = - 6/6 = -1. x1x1 x2x2 8 6 16 U = 8 U = 36 U(x 1,x 2 ) = x 1 x 2 ;

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Marg. Rates-of-Substitution for Quasi-linear Utility Functions u A quasi-linear utility function is of the form U(x 1,x 2 ) = f(x 1 ) + x 2. so

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Marg. Rates-of-Substitution for Quasi-linear Utility Functions MRS = - f (x 1 ) does not depend upon x 2 so the slope of indifference curves for a quasi-linear utility function is constant along any line for which x 1 is constant. What does that make the indifference map for a quasi- linear utility function look like?

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Marg. Rates-of-Substitution for Quasi-linear Utility Functions x2x2 x1x1 Each curve is a vertically shifted copy of the others. MRS is a constant along any line for which x 1 is constant. MRS = - f(x 1 ’) MRS = -f(x 1 ”) x1’x1’ x1”x1”

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Monotonic Transformations & Marginal Rates-of-Substitution u Applying a monotonic transformation to a utility function representing a preference relation simply creates another utility function representing the same preference relation. u What happens to marginal rates-of- substitution when a monotonic transformation is applied?

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Monotonic Transformations & Marginal Rates-of-Substitution u More generally, if V = f(U) where f is a strictly increasing function, then So MRS is unchanged by a positive monotonic transformation.

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