Are the Choices of People Stochastically Rational? A Stochastic Test of the Number of Revealed Preference Violations

Reprint No. 2014:28

Author(s): Per Hjertstrand and James L. SwoffordYear: 2014 Title: Empirical Economics Volume (No.): 46 (4) Pages: 1495–1519
Online article (restrictions may apply)

Revealed preference tests are frequently used to check data on the behavior of agents for consistency with economic theory. Unfortunately these tests lack a stochastic element and thus one violation of revealed preference causes a rejection of the behavior being tested. To remedy this lack of a stochastic element in revealed preference analysis, we suggest a general, simple, and intuitive statistical procedure to test whether the observed number of violations is more consistent with a pre-specified type of non-degenerate behavior than with rational behavior. We illustrate this general procedure with an example using uniform random behavior that allows researchers to test whether the actual number of violations of revealed preference is more consistent with uniform random behavior than rational behavior. This statistical test takes advantage of the fact that nonparametric revealed preference tests involve known prices and expenditures. Our illustrative example is accompanied by some Monte Carlo exercises showing that the uniform test performs very well. We implement our test using datasets from two well-known economic experiments. One is a dataset on altruistic choices from Andreoni and Miller (Econometrica 70:737–753, 2002). The second is a dataset on the choices made by subjects who act within a token economy from Battalio et al. (West Econ J 11:411–428, 1973) and Cox (Econ J 107:1054–1078, 1997). We find that for a majority of subjects in one altruistic behavior sub-experiment uniform random behavior can be rejected in favor of rational behavior at the 10 % level of significance. For all but one subject, living in the token economy, uniform random behavior cannot be rejected. For that one subject in the token experiment uniform random behavior is rejected in favor of perverse economic behavior.

Hjertstrand, Per and James L. Swofford (2014), "Are the Choices of People Stochastically Rational? A Stochastic Test of the Number of Revealed Preference Violations". Empirical Economics 46(4), 1495–1519.

Per Hjertstrand


Ph: +46 8 665 4557

Sick of Inequality?

An Introduction to the Relationship between Inequality and Health

Sick of Inequality.jpg

In this book Andreas Bergh, Therese Nilsson, IFN and Lund University, and Daniel Waldenström, IFN and Paris School of Economics, France, review the latest research on the relationship between inequality and health. What does inequality mean for our health? Does increasing income inequality affect outcomes such as obesity, life expectancy and subjective well-being?


Seminars organized by IFN


To present ongoing research informal brown-bag seminars are held on Mondays at 11:30 am. This is an opportunity for IFN researchers to test ideas and results.

Academically oriented seminars are most of the time held on Wednesdays at 10 am. At these events researchers from IFN and other institutions present their research.

In addition, IFN organizes seminars open to the public. Topics for these are derived from the IFN research.

Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Grevgatan 34 - 2 fl, Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden | Phone: +46-(0)8-665 45 00 | info@ifn.se