Economic Theory

, Volume 54, Issue 3, pp 675–692 | Cite as

Inequality aversion and separability in social risk evaluation

Research Article


This paper examines how to satisfy “independence of the utilities of the dead” (Blackorby et al. in Econometrica 63:1303–1320, 1995; Bommier and Zuber in Soc Choice Welf 31:415–434, 2008) in the class of “expected equally distributed equivalent” social orderings (Fleurbaey in J Polit Econ 118:649–680, 2010) and inquires into the possibility to keep some aversion to inequality in this context. It is shown that the social welfare function must either be utilitarian or take a special multiplicative form. The multiplicative form is compatible with any degree of inequality aversion, but only under some constraints on the range of individual utilities.


Risk Ex post equity Independence of the utilities of the dead 

JEL Classification

D63 D71 D81 

Supplementary material

199_2012_730_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (156 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 155 KB)


  1. Adler, M.D., Sanchirico, C.W.: Inequality and uncertainty: theory and legal applications. Univ. Pa. Law Rev. 155, 279–377 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Asheim, G.B., Mitra, T., Tungodden, B.: Sustainable recursive social welfare functions. Econ. Theory 49, 267–292 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Atkinson, A.B.: On the measurement of inequality. J. Econ. Theory 2, 244–263 (1970)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blackorby, C., Bossert, W., Donaldson, D.: Intertemporal population ethics: critical-level utilitarian principles. Econometrica 63, 1303–1320 (1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bommier, A., Zuber, S.: Can preferences for catastrophe avoidance reconcile social discounting with intergenerational equity? Soc. Choice Welf. 31, 415–434 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Broome, J.: Weighing Goods. Equality, Uncertainty and Time. Blackwell, Oxford (1991)Google Scholar
  7. Diamond, P.A.: Cardinal welfare, individualistic ethics, and interpersonal comparison of utility: comment. J. Polit. Econ. 75, 765–766 (1967)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Diez, H., Lasso de la Vega, M.C., de Sarachu, A., Urrutia, A.M.: A consistent multidimensional generalization of the Pigou-Dalton transfer principle: an analysis. B.E. J. Theor. Econ. (2007). doi:10.2202/1935-1704.1408
  9. Epstein, L.G., Segal, U.: Quadratic social welfare functions. J. Polit. Econ. 100, 691–712 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fleurbaey, M.: Assessing risky social situations. J. Polit. Econ. 118, 649–680 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fleurbaey, M., Gajdos, T., Zuber, S.: Social rationality, separability, and equity under uncertainty. CORE discussion paper, no 2010/37 (2010)Google Scholar
  12. Foster, J.E., Shneyerov, A.A.: Path independent inequality measures. J. Econ. Theory 91, 199–222 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Grant, S.: Subjective probability without monotonicity: or how Machina’s mom may also be probabilistically sophisticated. Econometrica 63, 159–189 (1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Harsanyi, J.: Cardinal welfare, individualistic ethics and interpersonal comparisons of utility. J. Polit. Econ. 63, 309–321 (1955)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Keeney, R.L.: Equity and public risk. Oper. Res. 28, 527–534 (1980)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Keeney, R.L., Raiffa, H.: Decision with Multiple Objectives, 1999th edn. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1976)Google Scholar
  17. Koopmans, T.C.: Stationary ordinal utility and impatience. Econometrica 28, 287309 (1960)Google Scholar
  18. Lauwers, L.: Intergenerational equity, efficiency and constructibility. Econ. Theory 49, 227–242 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Weymark, J.A.: A reconsideration of the Harsany-Sen debate on Utilitarianism. In: Elster, J., Roemer, J.E. (eds.) Interpersonal Comparisons of Well-Being, pp. 255–320. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, and Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris (1991)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Princeton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  2. 2.CERSES, Université Paris Descartes and CNRSParisFrance
  3. 3.Chair for Integrative Risk Management and EconomicsCenter for Economic Research, ETHZürichSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations