A note on decisions under uncertainty: the impact of the choice of the welfare measure

Theory and Decision 51 (1):51-71 (2001)
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Abstract

The paper addresses the question, how policy decisions under uncertainty depend on the underlying welfare concept. We study three different welfare measures: The first is directly based on the ex ante (expected) utility of a representative consumer whereas the second relies on an ex ante and the third on an ex post valuation of policy changes compared to the status quo. We show that decisions based on these measures coincide if and only if risk-neutral expected utility maximization is applied. Differences between the decisions are analyzed for both, risk-averse expected utility maximization and the MaxiMin criterion. For risk-averse decision makers, differences between the first and the second concept arise if the absolute risk-aversion of the decision maker is not constant in income. For risk-aversion and the MaxiMin criterion, the effort levels to provide a public good based on an optimization of ex post utility changes exceed those based on the first or second concept. Implications for environmental policy decisions based on the concepts of abatement costs and benefits from abatement are discussed

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