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Measuring Self-Control

  • John Ameriks
  • Andrew Caplin
  • John Leahy
  • Tom Tyler

How significant are individual differences in self-control? Do these differences impact wealth accumulation? From where do they derive? Our survey-based measure of self-control provides insights into all three questions: 1.There are individual differences in self-control not only of a quantitative but also of a qualitative nature. In our sample, standard self-control problems of over-consumption are no more prevalent than are problems of under-consumption. 2.Standard self-control problems do impede wealth accumulation, particularly in liquid form. Problems of under-consumption have the opposite effects. 3.Self-control is linked to conscientiousness' much studied by psychologists. There is a related link with financial planning.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w10514.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10514.

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Date of creation: May 2004
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Publication status: published as Ameriks, John, Andrew Caplin, John Leahy, and Tom Tyler. "Measuring Self-Control Problems." American Economic Review 97, 3 (June 2007): 966-72.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10514
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  1. Thaler, Richard, 1981. "Some empirical evidence on dynamic inconsistency," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 201-207.
  2. David Laibson & Andrea Repetto & Jeremy Tobacman, 2003. "Wealth Accumulation, Credit Card Borrowing, and Consuption-Income Comovement," Documentos de Trabajo 166, Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile.
  3. David Laibson, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-478.
  4. M. Daniele Paserman, 2004. "Job Search and Hyperbolic Discounting: Structural Estimation and Policy Evaluation," 2004 Meeting Papers 99, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2002. "Retirement Consumption: Insights from a Survey," NBER Working Papers 8735, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Victor R. Fuchs, 1980. "Time Preference and Health: An Exploratory Study," NBER Working Papers 0539, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. John Leahy & Andrew Caplin, 2004. "The Absentminded Consumer," 2004 Meeting Papers 784, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  8. Hanming Fang & Dan Silverman, 2007. "Time-Inconsistency and Welfare Program Participation: Evidence from the NLSY," NBER Working Papers 13375, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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. Christopher D. Carroll, 1998. "Why Do the Rich Save So Much?," NBER Working Papers 6549, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Benabou, Roland & Pycia, Marek, 2002. "Dynamic inconsistency and self-control: a planner-doer interpretation," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 77(3), pages 419-424, November.
  12. Stefano DellaVigna & M. Daniele Paserman, 2004. "Job Search and Impatience," NBER Working Papers 10837, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Krusell, Per & Kuruscu, Burhanettin & Smith, Anthony Jr., 2002. "Time orientation and asset prices," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 107-135, January.
  14. Piccione, Michele & Rubinstein, Ariel, 1997. "On the Interpretation of Decision Problems with Imperfect Recall," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 3-24, July.
  15. Loewenstein, George, 1987. "Anticipation and the Valuation of Delayed Consumption," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 97(387), pages 666-84, September.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. Robert B. Barsky & Miles S. Kimball & F. Thomas Juster & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1995. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Working Papers 5213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. W. Pesendorfer & F. Gul, 1999. "Temptation and Self-Control," Princeton Economic Theory Papers 99f1, Economics Department, Princeton University.
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