The social welfare function and individual responsibility: some theoretical issues and empirical evidence

J Health Econ. 2009 Jan;28(1):210-20. doi: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2008.10.003. Epub 2008 Nov 1.


The literature on income distribution has attempted to evaluate different degrees of inequality using a social welfare function (SWF) approach. However, it has largely ignored the source of such inequalities, and has thus failed to consider different degrees of inequity. The literature on egalitarianism has addressed issues of equity, largely in relation to individual responsibility. This paper builds upon these two literatures, and introduces individual responsibility into the SWF. Results from a small-scale study of people's preferences in relation to the distribution of health benefits are presented to illustrate how the parameter values of a SWF might be determined.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Empirical Research
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Social Responsibility*
  • Social Welfare*