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Empirical welfare analysis for discrete choice: Some general results

Debopam Bhattacharya

Quantitative Economics, 2018, vol. 9, issue 2, 571-615

Abstract: This paper develops nonparametric methods for welfare‐analysis of economic changes in the common setting of multinomial choice. The results cover (a) simultaneous price‐change of multiple alternatives, (b) introduction/elimination of an option, (c) changes in choice‐characteristics, and (d) choice among nonexclusive alternatives. In these cases, Marshallian consumer surplus becomes path‐dependent, but Hicksian welfare remains well‐defined. We demonstrate that under completely unrestricted preference‐heterogeneity and income‐effects, the distributions of Hicksian welfare are point‐identified from structural choice‐probabilities in scenarios (a), (b), and only set‐identified in (c), (d). In program‐evaluation contexts, our results enable the calculation of compensated‐effects, that is, the program's cash‐equivalent and resulting deadweight‐loss. They also facilitate a theoretically justified cost‐benefit comparison of interventions targeting different outcomes, for example, a tuition‐subsidy and a health‐product subsidy. Welfare analyses under endogeneity is briefly discussed. An application to data on choice of fishing‐mode illustrates the methods.

Date: 2018
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