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Optimal irrational behavior

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  • Feigenbaum, James
  • Caliendo, Frank N.
  • Gahramanov, Emin

Abstract

Contrary to the usual presumption that welfare in markets is maximized if consumers behave rationally, we show in a two-period overlapping generations model that there always exists an irrational consumption rule that can weakly improve upon the lifecycle/permanent-income rule in general equilibrium. The market-clearing mechanism introduces a pecuniary externality that individual rational households do not consider when making decisions but a publically shared rule of thumb can exploit. For typical calibrations, the improvement of the welfare of irrational households is robust to the introduction of rational agents. Although transitions to the optimal irrational steady state are not Pareto improving, transitions do exist that will improve a Pareto social welfare function with a sufficiently small generational discount rate. Generalizing to a more realistic lifecycle model, we find that the Save More Tomorrow(TM) (SMarT) Plan, if properly parameterized, can confer higher lifetime utility than the permanent-income rule.

Suggested Citation

  • Feigenbaum, James & Caliendo, Frank N. & Gahramanov, Emin, 2011. "Optimal irrational behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 77(3), pages 285-303, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:77:y:2011:i:3:p:285-303
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kevin X.D. Huang & Frank Caliendo, 2007. "Rationalizing Seven Consumption-Saving Puzzles in a Unified Framework," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0716, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
    2. Richard H. Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2001. "Naive Diversification Strategies in Defined Contribution Saving Plans," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 79-98, March.
    3. Richard H. Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save More Tomorrow (TM): Using Behavioral Economics to Increase Employee Saving," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages 164-187, February.
    4. Allen, Todd W. & Carroll, Christopher D., 2001. "Individual Learning About Consumption," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 5(02), pages 255-271, April.
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    6. Philippe Weil, 2008. "Overlapping Generations: The First Jubilee," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(4), pages 115-134, Fall.
    7. Bullard, James & Feigenbaum, James, 2007. "A leisurely reading of the life-cycle consumption data," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(8), pages 2305-2320, November.
    8. Robert M. Solow, 1956. "A Contribution to the Theory of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(1), pages 65-94.
    9. John Geanakoplos, 2008. "Overlapping Generations Models of General Equilibrium," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002225, David K. Levine.
    10. Feigenbaum, James & Caliendo, Frank N., 2010. "Optimal irrational behavior in continuous time," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 34(10), pages 1907-1922, October.
    11. Feigenbaum, James, 2008. "Information shocks and precautionary saving," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 32(12), pages 3917-3938, December.
    12. Heifetz, Aviad & Shannon, Chris & Spiegel, Yossi, 2007. "What to maximize if you must," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 133(1), pages 31-57, March.
    13. Lawrence Blume & David Easley, 2006. "If You're so Smart, why Aren't You Rich? Belief Selection in Complete and Incomplete Markets," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(4), pages 929-966, July.
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    17. Findley, T. Scott & Caliendo, Frank N., 2010. "Does it pay to be SMarT?," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(03), pages 321-344, July.
    18. Robert E. Lucas Jr., 2003. "Macroeconomic Priorities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 1-14, March.
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    1. repec:eee:jeborg:v:146:y:2018:i:c:p:65-105 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Howitt, Peter & Özak, Ömer, 2014. "Adaptive consumption behavior," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 37-61.
    3. Feigenbaum, James & Caliendo, Frank N., 2010. "Optimal irrational behavior in continuous time," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 34(10), pages 1907-1922, October.
    4. Feigenbaum, James, 2016. "Equivalent representations of non-exponential discounting models," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 58-71.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Consumption Saving Coordination Overlapping generations Lifecycle/permanent-income hypothesis SMarT Plan General equilibrium Pecuniary externality Transition dynamics Bounded rationality;

    JEL classification:

    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth

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