1 Theory of Consumer Behavior First, we need to define the agents' goals and limitations (if any) in their ability to achieve those goals. We will deal with a particular set of assumptions, but we can modify them in a number of different ways. We will then try to infer something about the agent's behavior. The behavior is going to be a description of choices that people make as a function of the constraints they face.
2 Goals There are three different ways of approaching the problem of consumer choice. The most traditional way is to suppose that there is something called utility or satisfaction. Consumers get satisfaction from engaging in certain economic activities. The utility function measures the amount of satisfaction that the individual gets from a market basket with n different commodities indexed by 1, 2,...,n
3 Consumer Theory (Definitions) Utility-the satisfaction or well being of an activity. Utility Function - A descriptive function the relates satisfaction or well being to the consumption or goods and services. Utility = f(goods, services)
4 Cardinal utility- Although we cannot empirically quantify utility, it is easier sometime to work with numbers. We therefore theoretically assign a measure called utils. When utility is measure its is called cardinal utility. Ordinal utility- In general, utility can not be measured however we can rank the utility certain activities give us. When utility is ordered in this way it is call ordinal utility.
5 Consumer surveys would like to be able to measure satisfaction using a measure of Cardinal Utility. Since it is impossible they attempt to measure ordinal utility for the consumption of goods and services.
6 Marginal Utility The added utility derived from increasing consumption of a particular product by one unit holding the consumption of all other goods and services constant. MUx = U/ X The amount of a good or service a consumer will consume will depend on the marginal utility of the last unit consumed relative the marginal utility of the last unit of other goods and services with the same price.
7 In other words when a consumer buys a product they are buying utility. Therefore if they can get more utility for the same price buying something else they will. They will only buy a product until the marginal utility per dollar of that product is less than or equal to the marginal utility per dollar of buying something another product.
8 Note: This concept of analyzing goals at the margin is something we will use throughout this course.
9 Law of diminishing marginal utility As the consumption of a given product increases the added satisfaction (marginal utility) diminishes. As we consume more the utility we get for an added unit decreases and therefore we are not willing to pay the same amount that was paid for the last unit. This gives us a negative relationship between price and quantity demanded. As price increase consumer demand less because we are getting less utility for our money.
10 P Q
11 Consumer Choice The decision to consume a product depends on the relative utility of other products that are available to consume. In other word we substitute goods and services for one other. Although there are many goods and service to choose from, the general theory of consumer choice can be analyzed with two products.
12 The goal of the agent would then be to choose that bundle giving the greatest level of satisfaction or utility. We can make further assumptions regarding utility. I may assume that it is monotone, i.e. at any point in the space if I move northeast, I am better off (more is better). Under certain circumstances we may wish to relax this assumption - there is a limit to how much cherry vanilla ice cream I can enjoy at a single sitting! With two different commodities, if we draw a utility function as a height in a three dimensional space, we get a "mountain" over the plane
14 To be able to see this in a two-dimensional drawing, we can "slice" the mountain at a certain height and obtain a line connecting all points that give you the same level of utility. That line would be called an indifference curve. There are an infinite number of indifference curves.
15 Indifference Curves Y U=120 utils U=100 utils X
16 An indifference curves is a curve that identifies all combinations of goods and services that provide the same utility. Since all points provide the same utility the consumer is indifferent between any combination of product X and Y that are on the same indifference curve.
17 marginal rate of substitution - The amount of one product that must be substituted for another if utility is to remain unchanged. This is the slope of the indifference curve.
18 The ratio at which I am willing to trade one good for another is the marginal rate of substitution (MRS). If I give up one unit of good 1, how much utility do I lose? I lose a level of utility equal to U 1. How many units of good 2 do I need to make up for that loss of utility? I need U 1 /U 2. The MRS is the slope of the indifference curve at a certain point. It says how much of good 2 I can give up if I get one more unit of good 1 and I want to stay on the same indifference curve. For example, if U 1 =10 and U 2 =5 and I give up a unit of good 1, I loose 10 units of utility and I need 2 units of good 2 to make up for the 10 units of lost utility.
19 MRS= Y / X = Slope of indifference curve A change in utility is equal to the Marginal utility times the change in the product consumed. U = MUx * X U = MUy * Y
20 Therefore if we keep utility constant the change in utility will equal zero ( U =0). This means that the change in utility from a change in one variable must be offset with an opposite change in the other variable. We can then set the one equations equal to the other time -1. (MUx * X) = -(MUy * Y) ( Y/ X) = -(MUx / MUy )
21 Examples of Indifference Curves. If my MRS does not depend on how much of the goods I am consuming, then the goods are perfect substitutes. For example, a unit of good 1 always exchanges for two units of good 2 along an indifference curve. (In most dishes, for example, it doesn t matter if you cook with corn oil or sunflower oil, so these goods are substitutes.) If the goods are perfect complements, then one good is only useful with the other one (left and right shoes). Usually when we draw an indifference curve, we make an assumption that the goods have a diminishing MRS. As I move along the indifference curve and I get more of good 1 and less of good 2, the relative value of good 1 declines.
22 Substitutes Complements Diminshing MRS
23 The law of diminishing returns tells us that as we consume more of a product the utility we receive decreases. MRS is usually not constant but diminishes as the amount of substitution increases. Therefore indifference curves are usually convex. If the MRS is constant the indifference is a straight line (substitute)..
24 First and second order conditions Diminishing marginal utility means that the indifference curves bow inwards like in the figure on the left. However, I can have an indifference curve that bows inward and still have a maxima (given my budget constraint). But if I do not have diminishing marginal rate of substitution, I might not have a unique maxima (see figure above on right)
25 If the indifference curve looks like those below, then there are two points on the budget line where the MRS equals the ratio of prices. However, both are not maxima. One is clearly on a higher indifference curve than the other. The FOC, namely that the MRS equals the ratio of prices, is a necessary but not sufficient condition for utility maximization.
26 Budget constraints (Budgets line) The amount that a consumer can consume is not unlimited. Instead it is constrained by his budget. In addition it is consumed by the price of the good and services in the economy. B= Pi Xi In the 2 product model it is B = PY*Y + Px*X Y = (B / PY) - [(Px*X)/ PY] = (B / PY) - [Px/ PY]*X
27 This means that the amount of Y a person can buy is simple his budget divided by PY. This is the intercept of the budget line. The slope of the budget line is -[Px/ PY]. Now that we have both the indifference curve and the budget line of the consumer we can figure out the consumption basket that will give the consumer the most utility. This will occur where the budget line is tangent to the highest indifference curve. (The point where the two curves are tangent will be where the consumer will receive the highest level of utility given is budget.) Tangency means that the slopes of the two curves must be equal. ( Y/ X) = -[Px/ PY] = -(MUx / MUy )
28 Y U=120 utils U=100 utils X
29 If I spend all my income, then where I = p 1 x 1 + p 2 x 2. I can afford anything on that budget line or below. The slope of this budget line tells me how many more units of good 2 can I buy if I buy 1 unit less of good 1. Another way of saying this is that this is the opportunity cost in terms of good 2 of consuming a unit of good 1. At the corners (I/p 2 and I/p 1 ) I spend all my income on only one good.
30 The Individual's Decision Problem. Given preferences and given the constraints, the individual wants to get to the highest level of satisfaction or highest indifference curve possible (by assumption).
31 At point A, I know that U1 / U2 < p1 /p2 (since the indifference curve U1 /U2 is flatter and the budget line p1 /p2 is steeper). In other words, the MRS is less than the opportunity cost. U1 / U2 is the amount of good 2 that I need in order to replace a unit of good 1, and p1 /p2 is how much of good 2 I can buy if I give up a unit of good 1. This tells me that if I give up a unit of good 1, I can get more of good 2; this will provide more utility than the utility lost from consuming one fewer unit of good 1. This means that I could do better by consuming less of good 1 and more of good 2. I can increase my utility by giving up some of good 1, moving in the direction of the arrow until I reach point B. At point B, we have U1 / U2 = p1 /p2, and the budget line and indifference curve are tangent. In that case I could not do better by moving in any direction.
32 In other words, if I face fixed prices, I am going to adjust the amounts of the goods I consume until at the margin, I value the goods myself in the same way as their opportunity cost. I am going to adjust my consumption of ham and eggs until I value ham and eggs in the same way the market does. After everybody adjusts their consumption to spend their money on ham and eggs optimally, everybody will end up valuing ham and eggs the same way at the margin. (Remember that we are dealing only with two goods). People will achieve this in different ways. Some people will achieve this by consuming a lot of ham and very little eggs, and some will need to spend equal amounts of each; however, at the margin everybody will value ham and egg in the same way. My MRS between ham and eggs is the same as yours since we face the same prices.
33 Corner solution. An exception to the above is when we do not have an interior internal solution. For example, say there is someone who does not like the horizontal good very much.
34 The best this person can do is to consume at point A. However, at that point the slopes are not equal (U1 / U2 < p1 /p2). The market would give me more of good 2 for a unit of good 1 than I need to be just as well off. So I should give some of good 1 and get more of good 2, but I have no good 1 to offer. So for all goods that the individual consumes in positive amounts, the individual values them at the same rate ratio as the market prices.
35 Holding the price of one of the products constant we can derive a demand curve for the other product. Holding the price of Y constant and letting the price of X vary, we can see that the amount of X demanded decreases as the price increases.
36 Y -[P x2 / P Y ] -[P x1 / P Y ] -[P x3 / P Y ] X P P x3 P x2 P x1 X
37 Another Graph X 2 X 1 p 1 x 1 (p 1, p 2, I )
38 The Income and Substitution effect. When the price of a product changes the consumer is effected in two ways. First the amount the consumer is able to buy changes, this has the same effect as changing the consumers income and is therefore called the income effect. Second the price relative to other goods in the economy has changed. This will cause the consumer to substitute one good for another. If the good in question become cheaper than substitute goods the consumer will consumer more of that good. If the good becomes more expensive, the consumer will consume less of the good in question and more of other substitute goods.
39 income effect- Shift to a new indifference curve following a change in aggregate consumption cause by a price change. substitution effect - Movement along an indifference curve reflecting the substitution to cheaper products from more expensive ones. Both these effect cause movements along the demand curve.
40 Consider the graph below. Starting at point A, consider a decrease in the price of Y so that we could buy more Y if we choose. Y Income Effect B C Substitution Effect A X
41 The consumer will now consumer more Y. Part of this is attributable to the fact that he can buy more Y, the remainder is attributable that Y is now cheaper compared to X
42 The price of X relative to Y has changed, the substitution effect is that change in the consumption of both goods using the new price ratio but that will keep the consumers utility unchanged. In other words a decrease in price acts just like a change in the income of a consumer the substitution effect captures the relative shift from one good to the other simply because relative prices have changed and not an increase in income. On the graph point A to point B. The income effect is the rest of the total movement.
43 Review the Graph. Y Income Effect Substitution Effect B C A X
44 Lets go step by step but this time lets analyze the good on the horizontal axis. Y Start with a consumer choosing between X and Y. Focusing on X notice she chooses quantity X1.. X1 X
45 Y Now assume the Price of X decreases form PX1 to PX2. Focusing on X notice she now chooses quantity X2... X1 X2 X
46 Y.. Keeping the same slope for the budget set (price ratio PX2 /PY) Take income away to make her just as well off as she was before. She chooses X3. The Sub Effect (-) and Income Effect (+) are shown below.. X1 Substitutio n Effect X3 X2 Income Effect X
47 Y The Substitution Effect is always c negative X / Px <0 while the Income Effect ( X/ I)( I/ Px) >0, meaning this is a normal good.... X1 Substitution Effect X3 X2 Income Effect X
48 Effects of changes in income After we maximize an individual s utility subject to a constraint, we end up with a choice that the individual makes. Below the choices under the lower-income and higher-income budget sets are x and X, respectively. x 2 X (p, I) x' x 1
49 If we change prices or income, we change the highest point that the individual can reach. For example if we have less income, the new budget line would be parallel but lower, and the new choice would be x If we want to infer something about how demand behavior changes when we alter the income constraint (and keeping prices constant) we get a graph like this:
50 In this figure x 1 is measured on the horizontal axis, and x 2 is measured on the vertical axis. Therefore we can see the demand for a good at each level of income. If we connect all such points, we get an income consumption (or expansion) path.
51 Associated with this, I can draw the Engel curve where I have income on the horizontal axis and the demand for, say the first good, on the vertical axis. The Engel curve is basically the demand for a good as a function of income, holding all else constant. x 1 I
52 Holding prices constant, if we increase the level of income and the consumption of the good increases, we call it a normal good (for example, good 1 in in the graph on the last slide). However, if when income increases the consumption of the good decreases, we call it an inferior good. (For example, good 1 in the figure below). Good 2 Good 1
53 Some examples of inferior goods, are things that allow us to stay alive without spending much money (such as Spam). If our income increases we switch to a good that we like better but that we could not afford before. A note on assumptions. Two people, with different assumptions about the way the world is set up, can look at the same data and come up with widely different conclusions. We need to remember that the assumptions that we make affect the conclusions we reach even if the data we work with does not change. The assumptions we make as well as the models we work with will affect the conclusions we reach. On the other hand, there is no way of looking at data or facts about the world without having some theoretical model --some way of organizing that data-- in your thoughts. You have to have some idea of the way things go together in order to be able to make sense of the data that you look at.
54 Could demand curves slope upwards? Keep in mind that we have to play with the rules of the game. The rules say that utility just depends on the physical amount of the goods consumed and that price does not enter the utility function. Therefore, an example in which I get utility from a good just because it is more expensive violates the assumptions of the model we are working with. This is an important question because one thing that economist like to do is comparative statics. P S P* D Q
55 We want to focus on P* as the outcome from this market. We justify it with the following story: if price is greater than P*, there would be an over supply of the good and that would push the price down. If we are below that price, there would be an excess demand and that would push the price up. However, if the demand curve looked differently, an over supply could push prices down and an over demand could push prices up (see figure below). P S D P* Q
56 In this case, P* is still the price in equilibrium, but it is not the price that other prices converge to. Downward sloping demand curves and upward sloping supply curves give us a sufficient condition for this type of stability property. Have we made any assumptions that allow us to conclude that individual demand curves could slope upwards? Suppose we have the following case: Good 2 Good 1
57 When the price of good 1 goes down, I am relatively richer so I buy more of good 2. And since good 1 is an inferior good, as the price of good 1 goes down, we become relatively richer so we buy less of it. Imagine that there are two goods: rice and meat. I would like to be getting all of my food from meat. However, meat is very expensive and rice is very cheap. I am so poor that if I tried to buy only meat I could not keep myself alive. So I buy mostly rice. If the price of rice falls, I could buy as much rice as I did before and have a little left for additional meat. I could even buy less rice that I did before and spend all of the difference on meat and be better off than I was before.
58 In conclusion, we can see this behavior if: (1) we are dealing with an inferior good; (2) we spend most of our income on it; and (3) there is no close substitute. A good whose quantity demanded increases as its price increases is called a Giffen good (sometimes this is referred to as the Giffen s paradox). A Giffen good must be an inferior good, but an inferior good is not necessarily a Giffen good.. The things we have talked about so far are local properties of the demand function. They are descriptions about what is happening to this function at a particular point. For example, a good could be a Giffen good for some prices and a normal good for others.
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