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Measuring Self-Control Problems

  • John Ameriks
  • Andrew Caplin
  • John Leahy
  • Tom Tyler

We develop a survey instrument to measure self-control problems in a sample of highly educated adults. This measure relates in the manner that theory predicts to liquid wealth accumulation and personality measures. Yet while self-control problems are typically seen as resulting in overconsumption and low wealth, we identify a significant group who underconsume and thereby accumulate high levels of wealth. In addition, self-control problems are smaller in scale for older than for younger respondents. Those who put money aside in retirement accounts may be delaying access to a point at which self-control problems are no longer important. (JEL D12, D14)

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.97.3.966
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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/aer/data/june07/20040440_data.zip
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 97 (2007)
Issue (Month): 3 (June)
Pages: 966-972

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:97:y:2007:i:3:p:966-972
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.97.3.966
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  1. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2002. "Wealth Accumulation and the Propensity to Plan," NBER Working Papers 8920, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Fudenberg, Drew & Levine, David, 2006. "A Dual-Self Model of Impulse Control," Scholarly Articles 3196335, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Laibson, David, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-77, May.
  4. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2007. "Retirement Consumption: Insights from a Survey," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(2), pages 265-274, May.
  5. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy & Tom Tyler, 2004. "Measuring Self-Control," NBER Working Papers 10514, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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