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Gamma Discounting

  • Martin L. Weitzman

By incorporating the probability distribution directly into the analysis, this paper proposes a new theoretical approach to resolving the perennial dilemma of being uncertain about what discount rate to use in cost-benefit analysis. A numerical example is constructed from the results of a survey based on the opinions of 2,160 economists. The main finding is that even if every individual believes in a constant discount rate, the wide spread of opinion on what it should be makes the effective social discount rate decline significantly over time. Implications and ramifications of this proposed "gamma-discounting" approach are discussed.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.91.1.260
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 91 (2001)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 260-271

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:91:y:2001:i:1:p:260-271
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.91.1.260
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  1. Weitzman, Martin L., 1998. "Why the Far-Distant Future Should Be Discounted at Its Lowest Possible Rate," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 201-208, November.
  2. Cropper, Maureen & Laibson, David, 1998. "The implications of hyperbolic discounting for project evaluation," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1943, The World Bank.
  3. Pizer, William A., 1999. "The optimal choice of climate change policy in the presence of uncertainty," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(3-4), pages 255-287, August.
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