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Welfare and individual choice when identity matters

Objective

On one hand, economics can be defined as the study of efficient resource allocation to alternative ends. On the other hand, economics can be defined as the study of rational choices. However, these two views of economics go hand in hand: the evaluation of efficient resource allocation is based on the idea of the economic agents' rational choices and both rely on the assumption that people have unchanging preferences over time. Current researches in experimental economics show however that people violate fundamental axioms that are at the basis of rational choice theory (RCT) and that their preferences change over time. In this line, philosophy, cognitive studies, psychology and sociology demonstrate that people's choices can be motivated by other than standard RCT.

Behavioural economics now tries to respond to some of these results by offering a modified theoretical and rational account of human behaviour. Yet, by doing this, behavioural economists fall from a "single-and-unchanged-preference-conception" to the other extreme of a "multiple" or "hierarchical-self-conception". The individual then turns out to be equilibrium of competing interests. The question thus is what becomes of welfare evaluations with this modified rationality and conception of the in dividual? I propose to consider individual choice and welfare evaluations when preferences change. However, I will base my considerations on the philosophical conception of personal identity introduced in an economic context.

The advantage of these philosophical considerations is that it reintroduces a coherent conception of an individual over time that explains how people change without becoming multiple. This will be an extension of my PhD, where I developed a "model of identity" that allows seeing the economic agent as changing her preferences without becoming inconsistent in her choices. One aspect of this research would deal with the gender-dimension of identity and its impact on choice and welfare.

Call for proposal

FP6-2004-MOBILITY-6
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Funding Scheme

OIF - Marie Curie actions-Outgoing International Fellowships
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Coordinator

CENTRE D'EPISTÉMOLOGIE ET D'ERGOLOGIE COMPARATIVES (UMR 6059, CNRS, UNIVERSITÉ DE PROVENCE)

Participants (1)

HARVARD UNIVERSITY, DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMICS