Journal Article

Other-Regarding Preferences in General Equilibrium

Martin Dufwenberg, Paul Heidhues, Georg Kirchsteiger, Frank Riedel and Joel Sobel

in The Review of Economic Studies

Published on behalf of Review of Economic Studies Ltd

Volume 78, issue 2, pages 613-639
Published in print April 2011 | ISSN: 0034-6527
Published online February 2011 | e-ISSN: 1467-937X | DOI:
Other-Regarding Preferences in General Equilibrium

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  • Welfare Economics
  • General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium


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We study competitive market outcomes in economies where agents have other-regarding preferences (ORPs). We identify a separability condition on monotone preferences that is necessary and sufficient for one's own demand to be independent of the allocations and characteristics of other agents in the economy. Given separability, it is impossible to identify ORPs from market behaviour: agents behave as if they had classical preferences that depend only on own consumption in competitive equilibrium. If preferences, in addition, depend only on the final allocation of consumption in society, the Second Welfare Theorem holds as long as any increase in resources can be distributed in a way that makes all agents better off. The First Welfare Theorem generally does not hold. Allowing agents to care about their own consumption and the distribution of consumption possibilities in the economy, the competitive equilibria are efficient given prices if and only if there is no Pareto-improving redistribution of income.

Keywords: Markets; Other-regarding preferences; Self-interest; Welfare theorems; D50; D62; D64

Journal Article.  12837 words. 

Subjects: Welfare Economics ; General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium

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