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Appropriate Discounting for Benefit-Cost Analysis

Author

Listed:
  • Burgess David F

    (University of Western Ontario)

  • Zerbe Richard O

    (University of Washington, Seattle)

Abstract

In order to be sensible about what discount rate to use one must be clear about its purpose. We suggest that its purpose is to help select those projects that will contribute more net benefits than some other discount rate. This approach, which is after all the foundation for benefit-cost analysis, helps to reconcile different suggested procedures for determining the discount rate. We suggest that the social opportunity cost of capital (SOC) is superior to other suggested approaches in its generality and its ease of use. We use the SOC to determine a range of real rates that vary between 6% and 8%. We suggest that approaches based on determination of preferences, which result in hyperbolic discounting, are less appropriate and less useful.

Suggested Citation

  • Burgess David F & Zerbe Richard O, 2011. "Appropriate Discounting for Benefit-Cost Analysis," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, De Gruyter, vol. 2(2), pages 1-20, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:jbcacn:v:2:y:2011:i:2:n:2
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Burgess David F. & Zerbe Richard O., 2013. "The most appropriate discount rate," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, De Gruyter, vol. 4(3), pages 391-400, December.
    2. Frits Bos & Thomas van der Pol & Gerbert Romijn, 2018. "Should CBA’s include a correction for the marginal excess burden of taxation?," CPB Discussion Paper 370, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
    3. Moore Mark A. & Vining Aidan R. & Boardman Anthony E., 2013. "More appropriate discounting: the rate of social time preference and the value of the social discount rate," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, De Gruyter, vol. 4(1), pages 1-16, March.
    4. Scott Farrow & W. Kip Viscusi, 2013. "Towards principles and standards for the benefit–cost analysis of safety," Chapters,in: Principles and Standards for Benefit–Cost Analysis, chapter 5, pages 172-193 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    5. Hansen Jason & Lipow Jonathan, 2013. "Accounting for systematic risk in benefit-cost analysis: a practical approach," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, De Gruyter, vol. 4(3), pages 361-373, December.
    6. Moore Mark A. & Vining Aidan R. & Boardman Anthony E., 2013. "The choice of the social discount rate and the opportunity cost of public funds," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, De Gruyter, vol. 4(3), pages 401-409, December.
    7. Gillespie, Rob & Kragt, Marit E., 2012. "Accounting for Nonmarket Impacts in a Benefit-Cost Analysis of Underground Coal Mining in New South Wales, Australia," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(02), pages 1-29, May.
    8. Johansson Per-Olov & Kriström Bengt, 2011. "Comment on Burgess and Zerbe: On Bank Market Power and the Social Discount Rate," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, De Gruyter, vol. 2(3), pages 1-6, August.
    9. Donald F Vitaliano, 2016. "Benefits and Costs of the Erie Canal: A New View," Eastern Economic Journal, Palgrave Macmillan;Eastern Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 581-593, September.
    10. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Paul N. Riskind, 2017. "Deterrence and the Optimal Use of Prison, Parole, and Probation," NBER Working Papers 23436, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Szekeres Szabolcs, 2011. "Comment on Burgess and Zerbe's "Appropriate Discounting for Benefit-Cost Analysis"," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, De Gruyter, vol. 2(3), pages 1-11, August.

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