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Discounting under uncertainty: Disentangling the Weitzman and the Gollier effect

  • Traeger, Christian P.

The uncertainty of future economic development affects the term structure of discount rates and, thus, the intertemporal weights that are to be used in cost benefit analysis. The U.K. and France have recently adopted a falling term structure to incorporate uncertainty and the U.S. is considering a similar step. A series of publications discusses the following concern: a seemingly analogous argument used to justify falling discount rates can also justify increasing discount rates. We show that increasing and decreasing discount rates mean different things, can coexist, are created by different channels through which risk affects evaluation, and have the same qualitative effect of making long-term payoffs more attractive.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Environmental Economics and Management.

Volume (Year): 66 (2013)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 573-582

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeeman:v:66:y:2013:i:3:p:573-582
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622870

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  1. Gollier, Christian, 2009. "Expected Net Present Value, Expected Net Future Value, and the Ramsey Rule," TSE Working Papers 09-049, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
  2. Hepburn, Cameron & Groom, Ben, 2007. "Gamma discounting and expected net future value," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 99-109, January.
  3. Gollier, Christian, 2009. "Should We Discount the Far-Distant Future at Its Lowest Possible Rate?," Economics Discussion Papers 2009-7, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  4. Gollier, Christian & Weitzman, Martin L., 2010. "How should the distant future be discounted when discount rates are uncertain?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 107(3), pages 350-353, June.
  5. Gollier, Christian, 2003. "Maximizing the Expected Net Future Value as an Alternative Strategy to Gamma Discounting," IDEI Working Papers 213, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  6. William D. Nordhaus, 2007. "A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 686-702, September.
  7. Martin L. Weitzman, 2001. "Gamma Discounting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 260-271, March.
  8. Weitzman, Martin L., 1998. "Why the Far-Distant Future Should Be Discounted at Its Lowest Possible Rate," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 201-208, November.
  9. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1978. "Asset Prices in an Exchange Economy," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(6), pages 1429-45, November.
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