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The Market for Apples: A Theory of Identity and Consumption

By Clement Lee

This paper presents an economic model of the effects of identity and social norms on consumption patternsBy incorporating qualitative studies in psychology and sociology, I propose a utility function that features two components  economic (functional) and identity elements. This setup is extended to analyze a market comprising a continuum of consumers, whose identity distribution along a spectrum of binary identities is described by a Beta distribution. I also introduce the notion of salience in the context of identity and consumption decisions. The key result of the model suggests that fundamental economic parameters, such as price elasticity and market demand, can be altered by identity elements. In addition, it predicts that firms in perfectly competitive markets may associate their products with certain types of identities, in order to reduce product substitutability and attain pricesetting power. 

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Advisor: Michelle Connolly, Rachel Kranton | JEL Codes: D11, D21 | Tagged: Consumption, Firm Theory, Heterogeneous Agents, Identity,  Social Norm

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