IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Discounting, Patience, and Dynamic Decision Making


  • John Quah
  • Bruno Strulovici


Whether they are financial, economic, or psychological, discount rates affect most economic decisions: investment and savings, hirings and firings, defaults and refinancing, financial and economic reforms, learning and experimentation, and any other decision with long-term consequences, such as gas emissions control. This paper studies these questions in a unified framework, providing general insights and results showing how discounting affects i) the expected utility of an agent, ii) the timing and the magnitude of his decisions, and iii) the path of underlying state variables controlled by the agent. The analysis includes the case of a time-inconsistent agent and of stochastic discounting.

Suggested Citation

  • John Quah & Bruno Strulovici, 2011. "Discounting, Patience, and Dynamic Decision Making," Economics Series Working Papers 555, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:555

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Matthew Rabin & Ted O'Donoghue, 1999. "Doing It Now or Later," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 103-124, March.
    2. John K.-H. Quah & Bruno Strulovici, 2009. "Comparative Statics, Informativeness, and the Interval Dominance Order," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(6), pages 1949-1992, November.
    3. R. H. Strotz, 1955. "Myopia and Inconsistency in Dynamic Utility Maximization," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 23(3), pages 165-180.
    4. Arrow, Kenneth J & Levhari, David, 1969. "Uniqueness of the Internal Rate of Return with Variable Life of Investment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 79(315), pages 560-566, September.
    5. Godfrey Keller & Sven Rady & Martin Cripps, 2005. "Strategic Experimentation with Exponential Bandits," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(1), pages 39-68, January.
    6. Patrick Bolton & Christopher Harris, 1999. "Strategic Experimentation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(2), pages 349-374, March.
    7. Ross, Stephen A. & Spatt, Chester S. & Dybvig, Philip H., 1980. "Present values and internal rates of return," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 66-81, August.
    8. Leland, Hayne E, 1994. " Corporate Debt Value, Bond Covenants, and Optimal Capital Structure," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 49(4), pages 1213-1252, September.
    9. James E. Foster & Tapan Mitra, 2003. "Ranking investment projects," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 22(3), pages 469-494, October.
    10. Dixit, Avinash K, 1989. "Entry and Exit Decisions under Uncertainty," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 620-638, June.
    11. Drazen Prelec, 2004. "Decreasing Impatience: A Criterion for Non-stationary Time Preference and "Hyperbolic" Discounting," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 106(3), pages 511-532, October.
    12. Gustavo Manso & Bruno Strulovici & Alexei Tchistyi, 2010. "Performance-Sensitive Debt," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(5), pages 1819-1854.
    13. 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.
    14. Milgrom, Paul & Shannon, Chris, 1994. "Monotone Comparative Statics," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(1), pages 157-180, January.
    15. Bruno Strulovici, 2010. "Learning While Voting: Determinants of Collective Experimentation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(3), pages 933-971, May.
    16. Sen, Amartya, 1975. "Minimal conditions for monotonicity of capital value," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 340-355, December.
    17. Paul Milgrom & Ilya Segal, 2002. "Envelope Theorems for Arbitrary Choice Sets," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 583-601, March.
    18. Nachman, David C., 1975. "Risk aversion, impatience, and optimal timing decisions," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 196-246, October.
    19. William D. Nordhaus, 2007. "A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 686-702, September.
    20. Flemming, J S & Wright, J F, 1971. "Uniqueness of the Internal Rate of Return: A Generalisation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 81(322), pages 256-263, June.
    21. Martin L. Weitzman, 2007. "A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 703-724, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Capital growth; Comparative statics; Discounting; Internal rate of return; Optimal control; Optimal stopping; Patience; Presence value; Project Valuation;

    JEL classification:

    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • D90 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - General
    • E2 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G31 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Capital Budgeting; Fixed Investment and Inventory Studies

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    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:oxf:wpaper:555. 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: (Anne Pouliquen). General contact details of provider: .

    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.