Envelopes for economists: an intellectual history

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


All economists know that a long-run average cost curve is the envelope of a family of short-run average cost curves, but many economists do not realise that envelope mathematics can be applied to many other topics. This paper reviews envelope mathematics and describes its intellectual history on several topics, including housing hedonics. The envelope derivations in this paper shed light on the key distinction in many envelopes between movement along a function in the family and equilibrium shifting from one family member to the next and ensure that the functional forms of the family of curves and their envelope are consistent with each other.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-226
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Journal of the History of Economic Thought
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Mathematical envelope
  • housing hedonics
  • long-run average cost function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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