Fair Utilitarianism

Marc Fleurbaey, Stéphane Zuber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Utilitarianism plays a central role in economics, but there is a gap between theory, where utilitarianism is dominant, and applications, where monetary criteria are often used. For applications, a key difficulty is to define how utilities should be measured and compared. Drawing on Harsanyi’s (1955) approach, we introduce a new normalization of utilities ensuring that: (i) a transfer from a rich population to a poor population is welfare enhancing, and (ii) populations with more risk-averse people have lower welfare. We study some implications of this “fair utilitarianism” for risk sharing, collective risk aversion, and the design of health policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)370-401
Number of pages32
JournalAmerican Economic Journal: Microeconomics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Economics, Econometrics and Finance


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