We all like to think that we are individuals. We like to think that we grow and that our tastes develop and mature. We begin to appreciate different things in life, and among other behaviors, our spending habits change.
But what would you say if I told you that your maturing tastes didn’t cause your maturing consumption patterns? Indeed, what if it’s the other way around? Maybe, you’re just a bumbling ball bearing bouncing about and pinging off of various stimuli in a very predictable fashion. What if the prices that you face changed over the course of the past two decades, adjusting your optimal bundle of consumption, and then you contrived reasons for your new behavior in an elegant post-hoc fashion.
Have you *really* taken a liking to whole wheat bread and pasta over the past decade because your tastes have developed? Or maybe it’s because you found that scrumptious New York Times recipe that turned you away from potatoes and toward rice. Whether it’s a personal experience, a personal influence, or a personal development, we like to think about ourselves as complex organisms with a narrative that makes sense of the way in which we interact with the world.
On the other hand, we have price theory. Price theory still accepts that you are special and that you have preferences. Then, it asserts that your preferences remain fixed and that your changes in behavior are merely responses to changing costs and benefits that you perceive in the world. Maybe you’re not any more inclined to eat healthily than you were previously, but the price ratio of whole wheat bread to white bread is 10% less than it use to be. Maybe your east-Asian inspired recipe didn’t cause you to spurn potatoes, but instead the price ratio of rice to potatoes fell by 20%.Continue reading