CFDP 2092R

Dynamic Random Utility


Publication Date: June 2017

Revision Date: November 2018

Pages: 66


We provide an axiomatic analysis of dynamic random utility, characterizing the stochastic choice behavior of agents who solve dynamic decision problems by maximizing some stochastic process (U_t) of utilities. We show first that even when (U_t) is arbitrary, dynamic random utility imposes new testable restrictions on how behavior across periods is related, over and above period-by-period analogs of the static random utility axioms: An important feature of dynamic random utility is that behavior may appear history dependent, because past choices reveal information about agents’ past utilities and (U_t) may be serially correlated; however, our key new axioms highlight that the model entails specific limits on the form of history dependence that can arise. Second, we show that when agents’ choices today influence their menu tomorrow (e.g., in consumption-savings or stopping problems), imposing natural Bayesian rationality axioms restricts the form of randomness that (U_t) can display. By contrast, a specification of utility shocks that is widely used in empirical work violates these restrictions, leading to behavior that may display a negative option value and can produce biased parameter estimates. Finally, dynamic stochastic choice data allows us to characterize important special cases of random utility—in particular, learning and taste persistence—that on static domains are indistinguishable from the general model.

Supplemental material

Supplement pages: 33


Dynamic stochastic choice, Random utility, History dependence, Serially correlated utilities, Consumption persistence, Learning

JEL Classification Codes: D81, D83, D90

JEL Classification Codes: D81D83D90

See CFDP Version(s): CFDP 2092

See CFP: CFP 1660