The pricing kernel is an important link between economics and finance. In standard models of financial economics, it is proportional to the aggregate marginal utility in the economy. We first show that none of the three standard assumptions (completeness, risk aversion, and correct beliefs) is needed for the pricing kernel to be generally decreasing. If at least one of the three assumptions is violated, the pricing kernel can have increasing parts. We explain the economic principles that lead to an increasing part in the pricing kernel and compare the resulting pricing kernels with the empirical pricing kernel estimated in Jackwerth (2000, Rev. Financ. Stud., 13, 433–451).