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Multidimensional Welfare Aggregation

Christian List
Public Choice
Vol. 119, No. 1/2 (Apr., 2004), pp. 119-142
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30025816
Page Count: 24
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Multidimensional Welfare Aggregation
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Abstract

Most accounts of welfare aggregation in the tradition of Arrow's (1951/1963) and Sen's (1970/1979) social-choice-theoretic frameworks represent the welfare of an individual in terms of a single welfare ordering or a single scalar-valued welfare function. I develop a multidimensional generalization of Arrow's and Sen's frameworks, representing individual welfare in terms of multiple personal welfare functions, corresponding to multiple 'dimensions' of welfare. I show that, as in the one-dimensional case, the existence of attractive aggregation procedures depends on certain informational assumptions, specifically about the measurability of welfare and its comparability not only across individuals but also across dimensions. I state several impossibility and possibility results. Under Arrow-type conditions, insufficient comparability across individuals leads to dictatorship of a single individual, while insufficient comparability across dimensions leads to dominance of a single dimension. Given sufficient comparability both across individuals and across dimensions, a range of possibilities emerges. I discuss the substantive implications of the results.

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