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Individual laboratory-measured discount rates predict field behavior

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  • Christopher Chabris

    ()

  • David Laibson
  • Carrie Morris
  • Jonathon Schuldt
  • Dmitry Taubinsky

Abstract

We estimate discount rates of 555 subjects using a laboratory task and find that these individual discount rates predict inter-individual variation in field behaviors (e.g., exercise, BMI, smoking). The correlation between the discount rate and each field behavior is small: none exceeds 0.28 and many are near 0. However, the discount rate has at least as much predictive power as any variable in our dataset (e.g., sex, age, education). The correlation between the discount rate and field behavior rises when field behaviors are aggregated: these correlations range from 0.09-0.38. We present a model that explains why specific intertemporal choice behaviors are only weakly correlated with discount rates, even though discount rates robustly predict aggregates of intertemporal decisions.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Risk and Uncertainty.

Volume (Year): 37 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2 (December)
Pages: 237-269

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Handle: RePEc:kap:jrisku:v:37:y:2008:i:2:p:237-269

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Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=100299

Related research

Keywords: Intertemporal discounting; Intertemporal choice; Impulsiveness; Health; Investment; C; D; I; J;

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  1. Barsky, Robert B, et al, 1997. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 537-79, May.
  2. Loewenstein, George & Prelec, Drazen, 1992. "Anomalies in Intertemporal Choice: Evidence and an Interpretation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 573-97, May.
  3. David M. Cutler & Edward Glaeser, 2005. "What Explains Differences in Smoking, Drinking, and Other Health-Related Behaviors?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 238-242, May.
  4. Laibson, David I., 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," Scholarly Articles 4481499, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  5. Grossman, Michael, 1972. "On the Concept of Health Capital and the Demand for Health," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(2), pages 223-55, March-Apr.
  6. Burks, Stephen V. & Carpenter, Jeffrey P. & Götte, Lorenz & Rustichini, Aldo, 2008. "Cognitive Skills Explain Economic Preferences, Strategic Behavior, and Job Attachment," IZA Discussion Papers 3609, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Robert B. Barsky & Miles S. Kimball & F. Thomas Juster & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1995. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Working Papers 5213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Daniel J. Benjamin & Sebastian A. Brown & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2006. "Who is “Behavioral”? Cognitive Ability and Anomalous Preferences," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000001334, David K. Levine.
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