Nonparametric welfare analysis for discrete choice: levels and differences of individual and social welfare
Empirical welfare analyses often impose stringent parametric assumptions on individuals’ preferences and neglect unobserved preference heterogeneity. In this paper, we develop a framework to conduct individual and social welfare analysis for discrete choice that does not suffer from
these drawbacks. We first adapt the broad class of individual welfare measures introduced by Fleurbaey (2009) to settings where individual choice is discrete. Allowing for unrestricted, unobserved preference heterogeneity, these measures become random variables. We then show that
the distribution of these objects can be derived from choice probabilities, which can be estimated nonparametrically from cross-sectional data. In addition, we derive nonparametric results for the joint distribution of welfare and welfare differences, as well as for social welfare. The former is an important tool in determining whether those who benefit from a price change belong disproportionately to those who were initially well-off. An empirical application illustrates the methods.