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Welfare Foundations of Discounting

Author

Listed:
  • Sáez-Martí, María

    () (The Research Institute of Industrial Economics)

  • Weibull, Jörgen W.

    () (The Research Institute of Industrial Economics)

Abstract

We investigate whether temporal preferences expressed as a sum of discounted consumption utilities can be derived from a welfare representation in the form of a sum of discounted total utilities. We find that a consumption-based representation in the usual exponential form corresponds to one-period "altruism" towards one's future selves: the current self gives positive weight to her total utility in the next period, and weight zero to her total utility in all subsequent periods. We also find that a consumption-based representation in the quasi-exponential (ß,d)-form suggested by Phelps and Pollak (1968) and Laibson (1997) correspond to quasi-exponential altruism towards one's future selves. For ß=1/2, the welfare weights are exponential, while for ß 1/2 in favor of one's future selves. More generally, we establish a functional equation which relates welfare weights to consumption-utility weights. We also postulate five desiderata for consumption-utility weights. None of the usual formalizations satisfy all desiderata, but we propose a simple formalization which does.

Suggested Citation

  • Sáez-Martí, María & Weibull, Jörgen W., 2002. "Welfare Foundations of Discounting," Working Paper Series 572, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0572
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Barro, Robert J, 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1095-1117, Nov.-Dec..
    2. George-Marios Angeletos, 2001. "The Hyberbolic Consumption Model: Calibration, Simulation, and Empirical Evaluation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 47-68, Summer.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Altruism; Discounting; Dynamic Inconsistency; Time Inconsistency; Welfare;

    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth

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