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Optimal irrational behavior

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

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.

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

Volume (Year): 77 (2011)
Issue (Month): 3 (March)
Pages: 285-303

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:77:y:2011:i:3:p:285-303
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo

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  1. Philippe Weil, 2008. "Overlapping generations: the first jubilee," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/13430, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  2. 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.
  3. Christopher D. Carroll & Miles S. Kimball, 2001. "Liquidity Constraints and Precautionary Saving," NBER Working Papers 8496, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. James Feigenbaum & Frank N. Caliendo & Emin Gahramanov, 2009. "Optimal Irrational Behavior," Working Papers 200901, Utah State University, Department of Economics and Finance.
  5. 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.
  6. HEIFETZ, Aviad & SHANNON, Chris & SPIEGEL, Yossi, 2003. "What to maximize if you must," CORE Discussion Papers 2003047, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
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  8. 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 S164-S187, February.
  9. Robert E. Lucas Jr., 2003. "Macroeconomic Priorities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 1-14, March.
  10. John Geanakoplos, 2008. "Overlapping Generations Models of General Equilibrium," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1663, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  11. Lawrence Blume & David Easley, 2001. "If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich? Belief Selection in Complete and Incomplete Markets," Working Papers 01-06-031, Santa Fe Institute.
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  13. John Geanakoplos, 2008. "Overlapping Generations Models of General Equilibrium," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002225, David K. Levine.
  14. Ayşe İmrohoroğlu & Selahattin İmrohoroğlu & Douglas H. Joines, 2003. "Time-Inconsistent Preferences and Social Security," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(2), pages 745-784.
  15. 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.
  16. Jonathan S. Skinner, 1987. "Risky Income, Life Cycle Consumption, and Precautionary Savings," NBER Working Papers 2336, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Richard Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save more tomorrow: Using behavioral economics to increase employee saving," Natural Field Experiments 00337, The Field Experiments Website.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. Feigenbaum, James, 2008. "Information shocks and precautionary saving," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 32(12), pages 3917-3938, December.
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