IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/wly/emetrp/v83y2015i5p1877-1911.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Poverty and Self‐Control

Author

Listed:
  • B. Douglas Bernheim
  • Debraj Ray
  • Şevin Yeltekin

Abstract

We argue that poverty can perpetuate itself by undermining the capacity for self‐control. In line with a distinguished psychological literature, we consider modes of self‐control that involve the self‐imposed use of contingent punishments and rewards. We study settings in which consumers with quasi‐hyperbolic preferences confront an otherwise standard intertemporal allocation problem with credit constraints. Our main result demonstrates that low initial assets can limit self‐control, trapping people in poverty, while individuals with high initial assets can accumulate indefinitely. Thus, even temporary policies that initiate accumulation among the poor may be effective. We examine implications concerning the effect of access to credit on saving, the demand for commitment devices, the design of financial accounts to promote accumulation, and the variation of the marginal propensity to consume across income from different sources. We also explore the nature of optimal self‐control, demonstrating that it has a simple and behaviorally plausible structure that is immune to self‐renegotiation.

Suggested Citation

  • B. Douglas Bernheim & Debraj Ray & Şevin Yeltekin, 2015. "Poverty and Self‐Control," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 83(5), pages 1877-1911, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:emetrp:v:83:y:2015:i:5:p:1877-1911
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Andrew F. Newman, 1991. "Risk-Bearing and the Theory of Income Distribution," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(2), pages 211-235.
    3. Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2010. "Expanding Credit Access: Using Randomized Supply Decisions to Estimate the Impacts," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(1), pages 433-464, January.
    4. Thaler, Richard H & Shefrin, H M, 1981. "An Economic Theory of Self-Control," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(2), pages 392-406, April.
    5. Abhijit Banerjee & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2010. "The Shape of Temptation: Implications for the Economic Lives of the Poor," Working Papers id:2484, eSocialSciences.
    6. Dean Karlan & Margaret McConnell & Sendhil Mullainathan & Jonathan Zinman, 2016. "Getting to the Top of Mind: How Reminders Increase Saving," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 62(12), pages 3393-3411, December.
    7. Houser, Daniel & Schunk, Daniel & Winter, Joachim & Xiao, Erte, 2018. "Temptation and commitment in the laboratory," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 329-344.
    8. Karna Basu, 2011. "Hyperbolic Discounting and the Sustainability of Rotational Savings Arrangements," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 143-171, November.
    9. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2009. "Beyond Revealed Preference: Choice-Theoretic Foundations for Behavioral Welfare Economics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 51-104.
    10. Reetika Khera, 2011. "India's Public Distribution System: Utilisation and Impact," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(7), pages 1038-1060.
    11. Nava Ashraf & Dean Karlan & Wesley Yin, 2006. "Tying Odysseus to the Mast: Evidence From a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 635-672.
    12. E. S. Phelps & R. A. Pollak, 1968. "On Second-Best National Saving and Game-Equilibrium Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 35(2), pages 185-199.
    13. Ambec, Stefan & Treich, Nicolas, 2007. "Roscas as financial agreements to cope with self-control problems," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 120-137, January.
    14. Bacchetta, Philippe & Gerlach, Stefan, 1997. "Consumption and credit constraints: International evidence," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 207-238, October.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis
    • C63 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Computational Techniques
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wly:emetrp:v:83:y:2015:i:5:p:1877-1911. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wiley Content Delivery). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/essssea.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.