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Do Discount Rates Change over Time? Experimental Evidence from Ethiopia


  • klemick, Heather
  • Yesuf, Mahmud


This study tests the hyperbolic discounting hypothesis using real-payoff experiments in Ethiopia. We compared time preferences over cash and consumption goods and over different time horizons. We found that participants made consistent choices over time and that responses did not vary across payment type. However, participants offered an immediate payment option first selected the impatient reward more often than those offered a delayed payment initially. Participants with greater livestock wealth and smaller landholdings were more likely to select the patient reward.

Suggested Citation

  • klemick, Heather & Yesuf, Mahmud, 2008. "Do Discount Rates Change over Time? Experimental Evidence from Ethiopia," Discussion Papers dp-08-06-efd, Resources For the Future.
  • Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-08-06-efd

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Green, Donald & Jacowitz, Karen E. & Kahneman, Daniel & McFadden, Daniel, 1998. "Referendum contingent valuation, anchoring, and willingness to pay for public goods," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 85-116, June.
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    4. 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.
    5. Pender, John L., 1996. "Discount rates and credit markets: Theory and evidence from rural india," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 257-296, August.
    6. Holden, Stein T. & Shiferaw, Bekele & Wik, Mette, 1998. "Poverty, market imperfections and time preferences: of relevance for environmental policy?," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(01), pages 105-130, February.
    7. Godoy, R. & Kirby, K. & Wilkie, D., 2001. "Tenure security, private time preference, and use of natural resources among lowland Bolivian Amerindians," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 105-118, July.
    8. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ubfal, Diego, 2016. "How general are time preferences? Eliciting good-specific discount rates," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 150-170.
    2. Beyene, Abebe D. & Bezabih, Mintewab & Gebreegziabher, Zenebe, 2012. "Contract Duration under Incomplete Land Ownership Rights: Empirical Evidence from Rural Ethiopia," Discussion Papers dp-12-09-efd, Resources For the Future.
    3. Anna Kaliciak & Radoslaw Kurach & Walid Merouani, 2016. "Who is Eager to Save for Retirement – the Cross-Country Evidence," LWS Working papers 23, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.

    More about this item


    Field experiment; hyperbolic discounting; intertemporal choice;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D90 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - General


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