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Uncertain lifetime and intertemporal choice : risk aversion as a rationale for time discounting

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Abstract

This paper makes explicit the links between preferences over lotteries on length of life and intertemporal choice. I show that the approach used by traditional life cycle models to account for uncertain survival corresponds to a strong assumption of risk neutrality with respect to the length of life. Relaxing such an assumption leads us to develop a more general formulation of lifetime utility in which time preferences are directly related to preferences over length of life. In particular, it provides an explanation for exponential and hyperbolic discounting which are found to result, in a first approximation, from constant and hyperbolic risk aversion with respect to the length of life.

Suggested Citation

  • Antoine Bommier, 2001. "Uncertain lifetime and intertemporal choice : risk aversion as a rationale for time discounting," Research Unit Working Papers 0108, Laboratoire d'Economie Appliquee, INRA.
  • Handle: RePEc:lea:leawpi:0108
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    Keywords

    Intertemporal choice; life cycle model; uncertain lifetime; time inconsistency; hyperbolic discounting.;

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • J17 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Value of Life; Foregone Income

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