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Closing the Eyes on a Gloomy Future: Psychological Causes and Economic Consequences

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  • Laajaj, Rachid

Abstract

This paper analyzes the impact of economic prospects on one’s time preference. Research in psychol- ogy has shown how individuals modify their preferences in order to reduce their cognitive dissonance, which is the uncomfortable tension felt when simultaneously holding conflicting thoughts. It occurs among the poor when simultaneously caring about their future welfare while having gloomy economic prospects. Hence closing their eyes on the future can reduce their psychological distress at the cost of worsening their future economic wellbeing. This paper offers a new theoretical approach that decom- poses time discounting and analyzes the endogenous determination of one’s time horizon. The model predicts that, below a certain wealth, the time horizon of an individual is decreasing in poverty, result- ing in a behavioral poverty trap. The prediction is tested using data from a randomized experiment in Mozambique, which confirms that the beneficiaries of an agro-input subsidy and a matched savings intervention increased their planning horizon as a result of their improved economic prospects.

Suggested Citation

  • Laajaj, Rachid, 2012. "Closing the Eyes on a Gloomy Future: Psychological Causes and Economic Consequences," 2012 Annual Meeting, August 12-14, 2012, Seattle, Washington 123933, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea12:123933
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    File URL: http://purl.umn.edu/123933
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Esther Duflo, 2007. "The Economic Lives of the Poor," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 141-168, Winter.
    2. Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2001. "Psychological Expected Utility Theory and Anticipatory Feelings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 55-79.
    3. Abhijit Banerjee & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2010. "The Shape of Temptation: Implications for the Economic Lives of the Poor," NBER Working Papers 15973, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    6. R. H. Strotz, 1955. "Myopia and Inconsistency in Dynamic Utility Maximization," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 23(3), pages 165-180.
    7. 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.
    8. Akerlof, George A & Dickens, William T, 1982. "The Economic Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 307-319, June.
    9. 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.
    10. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2003. "Wealth Accumulation and the Propensity to Plan," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1007-1047.
    11. Gary S. Becker & Casey B. Mulligan, 1997. "The Endogenous Determination of Time Preference," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(3), pages 729-758.
    12. David Laibson, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-478.
    13. Loewenstein, George, 1987. "Anticipation and the Valuation of Delayed Consumption," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 97(387), pages 666-684, September.
    14. Brune, Lasse & Gine, Xavier & Goldberg, Jessica & Yang, Dean, 2011. "Commitments to save : a field experiment in rural Malawi," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5748, The World Bank.
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    Cited by:

    1. Thompson, William W. & Janzen, Sarah A. & Magnan, Nicholas P. & Sharma, Sudhindra, 2015. "Social Drivers of Aspirations Formation and Failure in Rural Nepal," 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting, July 26-28, San Francisco, California 205757, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association;Western Agricultural Economics Association.
    2. Axelrod, David, 2017. "Optimizing Discount Rates: Expressing Preferences for Sustainable Outcomes in Present Value Calculations," MPRA Paper 84408, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Christopher B. Barrett & Michael R. Carter, 2013. "The Economics of Poverty Traps and Persistent Poverty: Empirical and Policy Implications," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(7), pages 976-990, July.
    4. Meysonnat, Aline & Muysken, Joan & Zon, Adriaan van, 2015. "Poverty traps: the neglected role of vitality," MERIT Working Papers 052, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    5. Marc Labie & Carolina Laureti & Ariane Szafarz, 2016. "Discipline and Flexibility: A Behavioral Perspective on Product Design in Microfinance," Working Papers CEB 15-020, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    6. Macours, Karen, 2012. "Volatility, Risk and Household Poverty: Micro-evidence from Randomized Control Trials," 2012 Conference, August 18-24, 2012, Foz do Iguacu, Brazil 128293, International Association of Agricultural Economists.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Endogenous time preference; cognitive dissonance; time horizon; Community/Rural/Urban Development; Consumer/Household Economics; Institutional and Behavioral Economics; D91; O12; Q12;

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • Q12 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Micro Analysis of Farm Firms, Farm Households, and Farm Input Markets

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