Revealed Preferences

It was via Tim Worstall that I first learned of the concept of what economists call Revealed Preferences:

Revealed preference theory … is a method of analyzing choices made by individuals, mostly used for comparing the influence of policies on consumer behavior. These models assume that the preferences of consumers can be revealed by their purchasing habits.

Things get especially interesting when revealed consumer behaviour differs from what they have previously said.  In other words, don’t listen to what people say but instead watch what they actually do.  It is fun to spot such examples in the wild, as Adam has done over at Pushing Rubber Downhill:

It turns out, shock horror, that while people might be very outwardly positive and vocal about bringing those “poor refugees” to Australia, when it comes to sending their own kids to school with them it seems that they’re not quite as keen.

The local council, City of Yarra, says the district has been a proud “Refugee Welcome Zone since 2002”. Yet in Fitzroy, Carlton and surrounding suburbs, progressive, middle-class families have been accused of shunning public schools with high refugee populations.

“They are fleeing!” African community leader and former refugee Abeselom Nega says of white, inner-city families who apparently are rejecting diverse schools. This year, in a Melbourne newspaper, Nega accused families who avoided inner-Melbourne schools with large African-­Australian student cohorts of ­racism.

The yawning chasm that stands between middle-class virtue signalling and how they actually behave makes the Grand Canyon look like a drainage ditch.

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12 thoughts on “Revealed Preferences

  1. Is racism the root cause though or is it the dropping standards caused by unsuccessful attempts to integrate the migrant schoolkids, I wonder?

  2. In the last couple of years the Gruaniad had to find a new editor. They did, of course, appoint a sub-Saharan African? No. Oh well, they did of course appoint an Afro-Caribbean? Nope. Oh well, a “Syrian” “refugee”? Nope. A middle-aged white broad? Yup.

  3. dotdavid – possibly violence, or the fear of such. I’ve read that there’s been problems in Melbourne with Somalian refugees forming criminal gangs.

    Tim – I don’t know that it’s necessarily conscious hypocrisy, I think cognitive dissonance might be a better lens through which to view this phenomenon. Or compartmentalisation: when they’re thinking about Refugees, they land on one conclusion; when thinking about Schools, they land on another. And they manage to avoid noticing that those two conclusions are at odds.

    Here’s an example: elsewhere on the internet, I like to nerd out about Game of Thrones. There’s a blogger who’s put in the effort to imagine how these various quasi-medieval kingdoms could grow economically. Yes, I know, it’s nerdy. But the point is…

    …well, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the show (or the books), but suffice to say that there are different regions in this fictional world, with different religions, and this guy, when planning growth and development for a fictional world, recognises that underpopulated regions could benefit from immigration, but that social stability demands that (1) priority be given to those migrants who follow the local religion, and (2) the immigrants not be allowed to concentrate in one area, so that they assimilate better.

    In other words, when thinking about the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, he has a conservative – dare I say, a common-sense view of immigration. But this blogger happens to be a Clinton supporter and former left-wing activist, who presumably would be horrified at the very same immigration policy if enacted in real life.

  4. Tim also introduced me to ‘Revealed Preferences’, this, along with ‘Incentives’, are perhaps the two most powerful tools in understanding how people behave.

  5. Its got nothing to do with racism and everything to do with Melbourne building some spectacularly unsuccessful inner ring council hellhole sink estates. They have a few spread around the inner ring which always includes dysfunctional high rise flats, council type ownership, shit schools, poor achievement rates, drugs, gangs and lower socioeconomic types that just don’t belong and are stuck there in among some of our beautiful wide laned leafy green suburbs.

    Pulverize the high rise and land gentrification is the only real solution.

  6. loves2spooge,

    Yes, I am familiar with the TV show.

    In other words, when thinking about the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, he has a conservative – dare I say, a common-sense view of immigration. But this blogger happens to be a Clinton supporter and former left-wing activist, who presumably would be horrified at the very same immigration policy if enacted in real life.

    That’s an interesting observation!

  7. Bardon,

    Its got nothing to do with racism and everything to do with Melbourne building some spectacularly unsuccessful inner ring council hellhole sink estates.

    Which themselves are a result of the type of politics the middle classes keep voting for.

  8. dearieme,

    In the last couple of years the Gruaniad had to find a new editor. They did, of course, appoint a sub-Saharan African? No. Oh well, they did of course appoint an Afro-Caribbean? Nope. Oh well, a “Syrian” “refugee”? Nope. A middle-aged white broad? Yup.

    Indeed: that is what this post was about. For all their right-on championing of minorities they don’t actually seem to know any, let alone socialise with them.

  9. dotdavid,

    Is racism the root cause though or is it the dropping standards caused by unsuccessful attempts to integrate the migrant schoolkids, I wonder?

    The latter, but the reason why the attempts to integrate them have been unsuccessful is because the dingbat Lefties accuse anyone who says they should integrate of racism. They’re avoiding their own policies, the ones they have inflicted on those not fortunate enough to be able to move or ring-fence themselves.

  10. “Which themselves are a result of the type of politics the middle classes keep voting for.”

    We cherished Bob Hawke and I though that he really was the chosen one. I fondly remember his personal letter advising me that he could no longer extend routine dole payments plans to me anymore and was discontinuing the service.

  11. See also under “Labour MP’s who send their children to posh private schools”; “Middle-class types who shop at Waitrose whilst simultaneously deploring the closure of their local butcher’s shop”; “Self-employed IR35 engineers who read the Guardian and rant on about tax avoidance by Starbucks”, and so on.

    It’s a rich field of research.

  12. “Self-employed IR35 engineers who read the Guardian and rant on about tax avoidance”

    That one I have encountered. One of them kinda… crashed… when I pointed out all the tax avoidance he was doing. Sickly, shifty grin; slightly perplexed look. I think it actually hadn’t occurred to him until I pointed it out. I didn’t even do it in a nasty way, just pointed out that tax avoidance is normal and we all do it at least a little bit.

    I must confess to getting a little guilty pleasure from telling Guardian readers about their holy book’s tax affairs and corporate structure.

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