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Wealth and Time Preference in Rural Ethiopia

Author

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  • Yesuf, Mahmud
  • Bluffstone, Randall

Abstract

This study measured the discount rates of a sample of 262 farm households in the Ethiopian highlands, using a time preference experiment with real payoffs. In general, the median discount rate was very high—more than double the interest rate on the outstanding debt—and varied systematically with wealth and risk aversion. Although we do not have a good theory for explaining the linkage between rates-of-time preferences (RTPs) and risk aversion, our findings warn that these two aspects of household behavior reinforce each other and are easily confused. Our results have important implications for understanding households’ behavior. Because the RTPs were so high, what might seem like profitable investments from the outside might not seem so from the farmers’ perspectives. Furthermore, when future returns were uncertain, risk-averse decision makers favored projects with shorter payback periods and were less willing to invest in projects with long-term benefits. Formal capital market development, including lending and mortgage markets—currently non-existent in most of rural Ethiopia—may help reduce RTPs and cause more investments to be acceptable. The results also suggested the need for more research on the linkages between risk aversion and RTPs in low-income countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Yesuf, Mahmud & Bluffstone, Randall, 2008. "Wealth and Time Preference in Rural Ethiopia," Discussion Papers dp-08-16-efd, Resources For the Future.
  • Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-08-16-efd
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    File URL: http://www.rff.org/RFF/documents/EfD-DP-08-16.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Moore, Michael J. & Viscusi, W. Kip, 1990. "Discounting environmental health risks: New evidence and policy implications," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 51-62, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Wang, Mei & Rieger, Marc Oliver & Hens, Thorsten, 2016. "How time preferences differ: Evidence from 53 countries," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 115-135.
    2. Teh, Louise S.L. & Teh, Lydia C.L. & Rashid Sumaila, U., 2014. "Time preference of small-scale fishers in open access and traditionally managed reef fisheries," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 222-231.
    3. Dodlova, Marina & Göbel, Kristin & Grimm, Michael & Lay, Jann, 2015. "Constrained firms, not subsistence activities: Evidence on capital returns and accumulation in Peruvian microenterprises," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 94-110.
    4. Wang, Mei & Rieger, Marc Oliver & Hens, Thorsten, 2011. "How Time Preferences Differ: Evidence from 45 Countries," Discussion Papers 2011/18, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Business and Management Science.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Discounting; Ethiopian farm households; experimental studies; interval regression; time preference;

    JEL classification:

    • C24 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Truncated and Censored Models; Switching Regression Models; Threshold Regression Models
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • Q12 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Micro Analysis of Farm Firms, Farm Households, and Farm Input Markets
    • Q21 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Demand and Supply; Prices

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