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Intradimensional single-peakedness and the multidimensional Arrow problem

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  • H Social Sciences (General)
  • Linguistics
  • Mathematics


Arrow's account (1951/1963) of the problem of social choice is based upon the assumption that the preferences of each individual in the relevant group are expressible by a single ordering. This paper lifts that assumption and develops a multidimensional generalization of Arrow's framework. I show that, like Arrow's original framework, the multidimensional generalization is affected by an impossibility theorem, highlighting not only the threat of dictatorship of a single individual, but also the threat of dominance of a single dimension. In particular, even if preferences are single-peaked across individuals within each dimension -- a situation called intradimensional single-peakedness -- any aggregation procedure satisfying Arrow-type conditions will make one dimension dominant. I introduce lexicographic hierarchies of dimensions as a class of possible aggregation procedures under intradimensional single-peakedness. The interpretation of the results is discussed.

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