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Agent Behavior under Risky and Uncertain Conditions. An Empirical Verification of Irving Fisher’s Notion of Time Preference

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  • Balgah, Roland Azibo
  • Buchenrieder, Gertrud

Abstract

Irving Fisher's theory on time preference in the 1930s arguably influenced the analysis of agents' current behavior with respect to future outcomes. By suggesting linear discount rates implying rational and self-interested motives of agents, Fisher substantiated neoclassical economic thinking. However, Fisher's notion of time preference, the choice between present and future enjoyment that actually integrates a psychological discounting component has not received similar attention in the scholarly literature. This paper aims at closing this gap. It empirically examines agent behavior under uncertain conditions culminating from natural shocks, and differentiates the psychic from the physical component. To empirically test Fisher's notion of time preference, we analyze disaster households from the 1986 Lake Nyos natural shock in rural Cameroon. We look at differences in incomes for impatient households, who illegally moved back to the disaster area and more patient and stationary households in official resettlement camps. Results show that, contrary to Fisher's contention, wealth is positively correlated with impatience. Households in the disaster zone display higher incomes than stationary ones. This finding assumes that differences in incomes existed before the movement. The results lead us to conclude that Irving Fisher's theory is only partially relevant in explaining agent behavior under conditions of risk and uncertainty. Partiality is attributed by the finding that impatience was rather positively correlated with income, with the exception of social capital. The results lead us to conclude that Irving Fisher's theory is only partially relevant in explaining agent behavior under conditions of risk and uncertainty.

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File URL: http://purl.umn.edu/114214
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by European Association of Agricultural Economists in its series 2011 International Congress, August 30-September 2, 2011, Zurich, Switzerland with number 114214.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:ags:eaae11:114214

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Keywords: Risks; uncertainty; agent behavior; Fisher; time preference; Cameroon; Risk and Uncertainty;

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