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A Theory of Intergenerational Altruism


  • Simone Galperti
  • Bruno Strulovici


Modeling intergenerational altruism is crucial to evaluate the long‐term consequences of current decisions, and requires a set of principles guiding such altruism. We axiomatically develop a theory of pure, direct altruism: Altruism is pure if it concerns the total utility (rather than the mere consumption utility) of future generations, and direct if it directly incorporates the utility of all future generations. Our axioms deliver a new class of altruistic, forward‐looking preferences, whose weight put on the consumption of a future generation generally depends on the consumption of other generations. The only preferences lacking this dependence correspond to the quasi‐hyperbolic discounting model, which our theory characterizes. Our approach provides a framework to analyze welfare in the presence of altruistic preferences and addresses technical challenges stemming from the interdependent nature of such preferences.

Suggested Citation

  • Simone Galperti & Bruno Strulovici, 2017. "A Theory of Intergenerational Altruism," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 85, pages 1175-1218, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:emetrp:v:85:y:2017:i::p:1175-1218

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    Cited by:

    1. Vásquez, Jorge & Weretka, Marek, 2020. "Affective empathy in non-cooperative games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 548-564.
    2. Gonzalez, Francisco M. & Lazkano, Itziar & Smulders, Sjak A., 2018. "Intergenerational altruism with future bias," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 178(C), pages 436-454.
    3. Dziewulski, Paweł, 2018. "Revealed time preference," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 67-77.
    4. Bosi, Stefano & Ha-Huy, Thai & Le Van, Cuong & Pham, Cao-Tung & Pham, Ngoc-Sang, 2018. "Financial bubbles and capital accumulation in altruistic economies," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 125-139.
    5. Jean-Pierre Drugeon & Bertrand Wigniolle, 0. "On Markovian collective choice with heterogeneous quasi-hyperbolic discounting," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 0, pages 1-40.
    6. Nesje, Frikk, 2020. "Cross-dynastic Intergenerational Altruism," Working Papers 0678, University of Heidelberg, Department of Economics.
    7. Li, Shengwu & Yu, Ning Neil, 2018. "Context-dependent choice as explained by foraging theory," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 175(C), pages 159-177.
    8. Antony Millner, 2016. "Heterogeneous intergenerational altruism," GRI Working Papers 226, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
    9. Choy, James P., 2020. "Religious rules as a means of strengthening family ties: Theory and evidence from the Amish," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(3), pages 729-748.
    10. Niko Jaakkola & Antony Millner, 2020. "Nondogmatic Climate Policy," NBER Working Papers 27413, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Łukasz Balbus & Anna Jaśkiewicz & Andrzej S. Nowak, 2020. "Equilibria in Altruistic Economic Growth Models," Dynamic Games and Applications, Springer, vol. 10(1), pages 1-18, March.
    12. Banerjee, Kuntal & Mitra, Tapan, 2018. "On Wold’s approach to representation of preferences," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 65-74.

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