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Intergenerational Equity And The Discount Rate For Policy Analysis

For two independent principles of intergenerational equity, the implied discount rate equals the growth rate of real per capita income, say, 2%, thus falling right into the range suggested by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. To prove this, we develop a simple tool to evaluate small policy changes affecting several generations, by reducing the dynamic problem to a static one. A necessary condition is time invariance, which is satisfied by any common solution concept in an overlapping-generations model with exogenous growth. This tool is applied to derive the discount rate for cost-benefit analysis under two different utilitarian welfare functions: classical and relative. It is only with relative utilitarianism, and assuming time-invariance of the set of alternatives (policies), that the discount rate is well defined for a heterogeneous society at a balanced growth equilibrium, is corroborated by an independent principle equating values of human lives, and equals the growth rate of real per-capita income.

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Paper provided by University of Haifa, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number WP2011/4.

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Length: 33
Date of creation:
Date of revision: 01 Jun 2011
Publication status: published in Macroeconomic Dynamics
Handle: RePEc:haf:huedwp:wp201104
Contact details of provider: Postal: Mount Carmel, Haifa, 31905, Israel
Phone: 972-4-8240086
Fax: 972-4-8240059
Web page: http://hevra.haifa.ac.il/econ/en/

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  1. MERTENS, Jean-François & RUBINCHIK, Anna, 2006. "Intergenerational equity and the discount rate for cost-benefit analysis," CORE Discussion Papers 2006091, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  2. Amrita Dhillon & Jean-Francois Mertens, 1999. "Relative Utilitarianism," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(3), pages 471-498, May.
  3. Gale, David, 1973. "Pure exchange equilibrium of dynamic economic models," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 12-36, February.
  4. Geir Asheim & Tapan Mitra & Bertil Tungodden, 2012. "Sustainable recursive social welfare functions," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 49(2), pages 267-292, February.
  5. Timothy Kehoe, 1982. "Regularity in Overlapping Generations Exchange Economies," UCLA Economics Working Papers 258, UCLA Department of Economics.
  6. M. Fleurbaey & P. Michel, 1997. "Intertemporal equity and the extension of the Ramsey criterion," THEMA Working Papers 97-11, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
  7. Basu, Kaushik & Mitra, Tapan, 2003. "Aggregating Infinite Utility Streams with Inter-generational Equity: The Impossibility of Being Paretian," Working Papers 03-03, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
  8. Debreu, Gerard, 1976. "Regular Differentiable Economies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 280-87, May.
  9. Mishan, E J, 1971. "Evaluation of Life and Limb: A Theoretical Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 79(4), pages 687-705, July-Aug..
  10. Asheim, G.B., 1989. "Unjust Intergenerational Allocations," Papers 09-89, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration-.
  11. Graciela Chichilnisky, 1996. "An axiomatic approach to sustainable development," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 13(2), pages 231-257, April.
  12. William D. Nordhaus, 2006. "The "Stern Review" on the Economics of Climate Change," NBER Working Papers 12741, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. MERTENS, Jean-François & RUBINCHIK, Anna, 2009. "Regularity and stability of equilibria in an overlapping generations model with exogenous growth," CORE Discussion Papers 2009005, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  14. Paul A. Samuelson, 1958. "An Exact Consumption-Loan Model of Interest with or without the Social Contrivance of Money," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 467.
  15. S. Demichelis & H. Polemarchakis, 2007. "The determinacy of equilibrium in economies of overlapping generations," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 32(3), pages 461-475, September.
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