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### "Valuing Cultural Diversity in Cities: Challenges to Cultural Economics", Procida (Naples, Italy), 5th of September 200

Foundations of Microeconomic Theory

Laura Onofri

Department of Economics University of Venice Cà Foscari and FEEM

Introducing the Subject: Some Challenging Questions

- Why do people study different languages?
- How do individuals choose the foreign language they want to learn?
- Why should minority languages be protected?
- What is the value that individuals attach to the preservation of a minority language?
- Can we define the price/value of a (minority) language?

…….

Lecture Motivation and Content

- The present lesson aims at providing the basic, non-technical notions about economics reasoning, applied to standard, neoclassical consumer’s theory.
- From preferences to utility functions to demand functions to reservation price

Economics and Microeconomics

- Economics is the science that studies the choices of rational agents (economic agents, homo oeconomicus), in a world of scarce resources.
- Microeconomics studies the choices of three main economic agents: consumers, firms and policy-makers.
- We want to explain,predict and evaluate behavior and phenomena--not judge

The Two Dimensions of a Choice (1)

- Consumers choose the optimal consumption bundle by solving a constrained maximization problem.
- The optimal choice is characterised by both a psychological and a monetary dimension.

The Two Dimensions of a Choice (2)

- The psychological dimension is represented by the notion of preferences and utility functions, which map the consumers tastes and desires.
- The monetary dimension is represented by budget constraint (the income available for purchasing goods).

Preferences

- Individuals’ tastes (preferences) determine

pleasure people derive from the consumption of goods

- Economists usually take tastes as given and do not judge taste
- Assumptions about consumer preferences

1. completeness

2. transitivity

3. more is better

Three main “axioms”

Completeness. Consumer can compare any two bundles of goods and services and decide which one is preferred or whether he (she) is indifferent between them.

Transitivity (“rationality”). If a consumer prefers bundle x over y and y over z, then x is preferred over z.

More is better(aka non-satiation). A bundle with more of one good and no less of others is preferred.

Indifference Curves

we summarize information about an individual’s preferences using a graph and we can rank some bundles using more is better assumption

Indifference curve properties

1. bundles on indifference curves farther from the origin are preferred to those on indifference curves closer to the origin

2. there is an indifference curve through every possible bundle

3. indifference curves cannot cross

4. indifference curves are “thin”

5. indifference curves slope down

Marginal Rate of Substitution (1)

Willingness to substitute;

downward-sloping indifference curve:

consumer is willing to substitute one good

for the other

marginal rate of substitution (MRS) of x for y is slope of indifference curve:

MRS = δx/δy

Marginal Rate of Substitution (2)

- MRS varies along the indifference curve
- When convex UF diminish marginal rates of substitution (MRS)

Indifference Curves: Perfect Substitutes and Perfect Complements

- Perfect substitutes

straight line indifference curves

if slope is –1, MRS = 1 (Coke-Pepsi)

- Perfect complements

right-angle indifference curves

MRS = 0 (Coffee-Cream)

Marginal Rate of Substitution

Willingness to substitute;

downward-sloping indifference curve:

consumer is willing to substitute one good

for the other

marginal rate of substitution (MRS) of y for x is slope of indifference curve:

MRS = δy/δx

Marginal Rate of Substitution

- MRS varies along the indifference curve
- When convex UF diminish marginal rates of substitution (MRS)

Utility Functions

Numerical values that reflect relative rankings of various bundles of goods

Relationship between utility measure and every possible bundle of good

Succinct summary of information in indifference map

Utility and Marginal Utility

- Marginal utility of x: change in utility from a small increase in x, holding y fixed.

MU = δU/δx

Budget Constraint

- Suppose an individual spends all her income for purchasing goods y and x. Her budget constraint is:

M = pxx + pyy

Rewrite as:

x = (M – pyy)/px

Marginal Rate of Transformation

- Slope of the Budget Constraint line:

py/px

- Opportunity set

all bundles a consumer can buy includes bundles on and inside the budget constraint

Consumers’Constrained Choice (1)

Consumers maximise the objective function (utility function) subject to the budget constraint

Max U(x,y)

s.t. M = pxx + pyy

The result of the maximization problem provides the optimal bundle of goods x and y that the consumer can purchase within its possibility set.

Consumers’Constrained Choice (2)

- Optimal bundle, two possibilities
- Interior solution: buy some units of all goods (consumer buys some units of all goods optimum bundle, e, where highest

indifference curve touches the budget line)

2. Corner solution: buy only one good

Consumers’Constrained Choice: Property of the Equilibrium Solution

At interior optimum, indifference curve is

tangent to budget line:

MRS = MRT

δy/δx = - py/px

- last Euro spent on x gives as much extra utility as that spent on y

Individual Demand Curves

- The equilibrium solution indicates the optimal amount of y and x that the consumer can purchase within her possibility set. It indicates a relationship between quantity and (market) price of a good:

Qx = f(px)

Qy = f(py)

Individual Demand Curves

Demand Elasticity

- Reservation Price
- Willingness to Pay
- Utility measured in monetary terms
- Market Price
- Market Values

References

- Varian, Hal., R. 1992. Microeconomic Analysis 3rd Edition. W.W. Norton, New York

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