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The evolutionary theory of time preferences and intergenerational transfers

  • Cyrus Chu, C.Y.
  • Chien, Hung-Ken
  • Lee, Ronald D.

Abstract At each age an organism produces energy by foraging and allocates this energy among reproduction, survival, growth, and intergenerational transfers. We characterize the optimal set of allocation decisions that maximizes fitness. Time preference (the discount rate) is derived from the marginal rate of substitution between energy obtained at two different times or ages, holding fitness constant. Time preference varies with age in different ways depending on whether an individual is immature or mature, and during the transition between these stages. We conclude that time preference and discount rates are likely to be U-shaped across age.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 76 (2010)
Issue (Month): 3 (December)
Pages: 451-464

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:76:y:2010:i:3:p:451-464
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo

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  1. Arthur J. Robson & Balazs Szentes, 2008. "Evolution of Time Preference by Natural Selection: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 1178-88, June.
  2. Galor, Oded & Moav, Omer, 2001. "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 2727, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  6. David M. Bishai, 2004. "Does time preference change with age?," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 17(4), pages 583-602, December.
  7. Arthur J. Robson & Larry Samuelson, 2009. "The Evolution of Time Preference with Aggregate Uncertainty," Levine's Working Paper Archive 814577000000000087, David K. Levine.
  8. Laitner, John, 1979. "Household Bequests, Perfect Expectations, and the National Distribution of Wealth," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(5), pages 1175-93, September.
  9. Paul A. Samuelson, 1958. "An Exact Consumption-Loan Model of Interest with or without the Social Contrivance of Money," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 467.
  10. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
  11. Arthur J. Robson & Hillard S. Kaplan, 2003. "The Evolution of Human Life Expectancy and Intelligence in Hunter-Gatherer Economies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 150-169, March.
  12. James W. Vaupel & Annette Baudisch & Martin Dölling & Deborah A. Roach & Jutta Gampe, 2004. "The case for negative senescence," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2004-002, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
  13. Rogers, Alan R, 1994. "Evolution of Time Preference by Natural Selection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 460-81, June.
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