IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/18742.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Poverty and Self-Control

Author

Listed:
  • B. Douglas Bernheim
  • Debraj Ray
  • Sevin Yeltekin

Abstract

The absence of self-control is often viewed as an important correlate of persistent poverty. Using a standard intertemporal allocation problem with credit constraints faced by an individual with quasi- hyperbolic preferences, we argue that poverty damages the ability to exercise self-control. Our theory invokes George Ainslie's notion of "personal rules," interpreted as subgame-perfect equilibria of an intrapersonal game played by a time-inconsistent decision maker. Our main result pertains to situations in which the individual is neither so patient that accumulation is possible from every asset level, nor so impatient that decumulation is unavoidable from every asset level. Such cases always possess a threshold level of assets above which personal rules support unbounded accumulation, and a second threshold below which there is a "poverty trap": no personal rule permits the individual to avoid depleting all liquid wealth. In short, poverty perpetuates itself by undermining the ability to exercise self-control. Thus even temporary policies designed to help the poor accumulate assets may be highly effective. We also explore the implications for saving with easier access to credit, the demand for commitment devices, the design of accounts to promote saving, and the variation of the marginal propensity to consume across classes of resource claims.

Suggested Citation

  • B. Douglas Bernheim & Debraj Ray & Sevin Yeltekin, 2013. "Poverty and Self-Control," NBER Working Papers 18742, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18742 Note: DEV PE
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w18742.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Richard H. Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save More Tomorrow (TM): Using Behavioral Economics to Increase Employee Saving," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages 164-187, February.
    2. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Andrew F. Newman, 1991. "Risk-Bearing and the Theory of Income Distribution," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(2), pages 211-235.
    3. 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.
    4. Abhijit Banerjee & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2010. "The Shape of Temptation: Implications for the Economic Lives of the Poor," Working Papers id:2484, eSocialSciences.
    5. Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2010. "Expanding Credit Access: Using Randomized Supply Decisions to Estimate the Impacts," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, pages 433-464.
    6. Daniel Houser & Daniel Schunk & Joachim Winter & Erte Xiao, 2017. "Temptation and Commitment in the Laboratory," Working Papers 1720, Gutenberg School of Management and Economics, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz.
    7. Karna Basu, 2011. "Hyperbolic Discounting and the Sustainability of Rotational Savings Arrangements," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 143-171, November.
    8. Reetika Khera, 2011. "India's Public Distribution System: Utilisation and Impact," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(7), pages 1038-1060.
    9. Nava Ashraf & Dean Karlan & Wesley Yin, 2006. "Tying Odysseus to the Mast: Evidence From a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 635-672.
    10. E. S. Phelps & R. A. Pollak, 1968. "On Second-Best National Saving and Game-Equilibrium Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 35(2), pages 185-199.
    11. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard Thaler, 2004. "Save more tomorrow: Using behavioral economics to increase employee saving," Natural Field Experiments 00337, The Field Experiments Website.
    12. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2009. "Beyond Revealed Preference: Choice-Theoretic Foundations for Behavioral Welfare Economics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 51-104.
    13. Ambec, Stefan & Treich, Nicolas, 2007. "Roscas as financial agreements to cope with self-control problems," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, pages 120-137.
    14. Bacchetta, Philippe & Gerlach, Stefan, 1997. "Consumption and credit constraints: International evidence," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, pages 207-238.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Poverty exacerbates self-control issues
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2013-02-12 21:25:00

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:deveco:v:127:y:2017:i:c:p:187-208 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Edward C. Prescott & Kevin L. Reffett, 2016. "Preface: Special Issue on Dynamic Games in Macroeconomics," Dynamic Games and Applications, Springer, vol. 6(2), pages 157-160, June.
    3. Farah Said, 2016. "Access to Finance and Agency: An Overview of the Constraints to Female-Run Enterprises," Lahore Journal of Economics, Department of Economics, The Lahore School of Economics, vol. 21(Special E), pages 331-349, September.
    4. Ubfal, Diego, 2016. "How general are time preferences? Eliciting good-specific discount rates," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, pages 150-170.
    5. Lilia Maliar & Serguei Maliar, 2016. "Ruling Out Multiplicity of Smooth Equilibria in Dynamic Games: A Hyperbolic Discounting Example," Dynamic Games and Applications, Springer, vol. 6(2), pages 243-261, June.
    6. Carvalho, Leandro S. & Prina, Silvia & Sydnor, Justin, 2016. "The effect of saving on risk attitudes and intertemporal choices," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, pages 41-52.
    7. Saugato Datta & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2014. "Behavioral Design: A New Approach to Development Policy," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, pages 7-35.
    8. Strulik, Holger, 2016. "Myopic misery: Maternal depression, child investments, and the neurobiological poverty trap," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 294, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    9. Cobb-Clark, Deborah A. & Kassenboehmer, Sonja C. & Sinning, Mathias G., 2016. "Locus of control and savings," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 113-130.
    10. Bethencourt, Carlos & Kunze, Lars, 2016. "Temptation and the efficient taxation of education and labor," MPRA Paper 75141, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Ales, Laurence & Sleet, Christopher, 2014. "Revision proofness," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 152(C), pages 324-355.
    12. Sawada, Yasuyuki & Takasaki, Yoshito, 2017. "Natural Disaster, Poverty, and Development: An Introduction," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 2-15.
    13. Łukasz Balbus & Łukasz Woźny, 2016. "A Strategic Dynamic Programming Method for Studying Short-Memory Equilibria of Stochastic Games with Uncountable Number of States," Dynamic Games and Applications, Springer, vol. 6(2), pages 187-208, June.
    14. repec:eee:jeborg:v:143:y:2017:i:c:p:98-115 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Kodritsch, Sebastian, 2015. "A note on the welfare of a sophisticated time-inconsistent decision-maker," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Market Behavior SP II 2015-201, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    16. Basu, Karna, 2014. "Commitment savings in informal banking markets," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, pages 97-111.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis
    • C63 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Computational Techniques
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18742. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.