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Properties of the Social Discount Rate in a Benthamite Framework with Heterogeneous Degrees of Impatience

  • Diego Nocetti


    (CIMS - Courant Institute of Mathematical Science - New York University)

  • Elyès Jouini


    (CEREMADE - CEntre de REcherches en MAthématiques de la DEcision - CNRS : UMR7534 - Université Paris Dauphine - Paris IX)

  • Clotilde Napp


    (DRM - Dauphine Recherches en Management - CNRS : UMR7088 - Université Paris Dauphine - Paris IX)

This paper derives the properties of the discount rate that should be applied to a public-sector project when the affected population has heterogeneous degrees of impatience. We show that, for any distribution of discount rates, the social discount rate has the following properties: it decreases over time, it is lower than the average of the discount rates in the population, and it converges to the discount rate of the most patient individual in the economy. These properties hold for both constant and decreasing individual discount rates. Finally, we evaluate how changes in the distribution of individual discount rates affect the social discount rate.

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Paper provided by HAL in its series Post-Print with number halshs-00365980.

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Date of creation: 10 Oct 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published, Management Science, 2008, Vol. 54, No. 10, pp. 1822-1826
Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:halshs-00365980
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  1. Norman Henderson & Ian Bateman, 1995. "Empirical and public choice evidence for hyperbolic social discount rates and the implications for intergenerational discounting," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 5(4), pages 413-423, June.
  2. Cropper, Maureen L & Aydede, Sema K & Portney, Paul R, 1994. "Preferences for Life Saving Programs: How the Public Discounts Time and Age," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 8(3), pages 243-65, May.
  3. Elyès Jouini & Clotilde Napp, 2008. "On Abel's Concept of Doubt and Pessimism," Post-Print halshs-00176611, HAL.
  4. 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.
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  6. Mark A. Moore & Anthony E. Boardman & Aidan R. Vining & David L. Weimer & David H. Greenberg, 2004. "“Just give me a number!” Practical values for the social discount rate," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(4), pages 789-812.
  7. Lawrance, Emily C, 1991. "Poverty and the Rate of Time Preference: Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(1), pages 54-77, February.
  8. Thaler, Richard, 1981. "Some empirical evidence on dynamic inconsistency," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 201-207.
  9. Norman Henderson & Ian Langford, 1998. "Cross-Disciplinary Evidence for Hyperbolic Social Discount Rates," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 44(11-Part-1), pages 1493-1500, November.
  10. Gollier, Christian, 2002. "Discounting an uncertain future," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(2), pages 149-166, August.
  11. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
  12. Landsberger, Michael & Meilijson, Isaac, 1990. "Demand for risky financial assets: A portfolio analysis," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 204-213, February.
  13. Jerry A. Hausman, 1979. "Individual Discount Rates and the Purchase and Utilization of Energy-Using Durables," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 33-54, Spring.
  14. Kenneth F. Reinschmidt, 2002. "Aggregate Social Discount Rate Derived from Individual Discount Rates," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 48(2), pages 307-312, February.
  15. Christian Gollier & Richard Zeckhauser, 2005. "Aggregation of Heterogeneous Time Preferences," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(4), pages 878-896, August.
  16. Uri Benzion & Amnon Rapoport & Joseph Yagil, 1989. "Discount Rates Inferred from Decisions: An Experimental Study," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 35(3), pages 270-284, March.
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