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Read This Paper Later: Procrastination with Time-Consistent Preferences

  • Fischer, Carolyn

    ()

    (Resources for the Future)

A model of time-consistent procrastination is developed to assess the extent to which the observed behavior is compatible with rational behavior. When a finite work requirement must be completed by a deadline, the remaining time for leisure is an exhaustible resource. With a positive rate of time preference, the optimal allocation of this resource results in more hours spent working (and fewer in leisure) the closer the deadline. Key qualitative findings of psychological studies of academic procrastination are consistent with the standard natural resource management principles implied by the model, when suitably adapted to task aversiveness, uncertainty, and multiple deadlines. However, quantitatively, the fully rational model requires an extremely high rate of time preference or elasticity of intertemporal substitution to generate serious procrastination; furthermore, it cannot explain undesired procrastination. A companion paper, "Read This Paper Even Later: Procrastination with Time-Inconsistent Preferences" analyzes the extent to which alternative time discounting preferences can better explain such impatience and address the issue of self-control failures.

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Paper provided by Resources For the Future in its series Discussion Papers with number dp-99-19.

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Date of creation: 01 Jan 1999
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Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-99-19
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  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. Fischer, Carolyn, 1999. "Read This Paper Even Later: Procrastination with Time-Inconsistent Preferences," Discussion Papers dp-99-20, Resources For the Future.
  3. M. L. Weitzman, 1975. "The Optimal Development of Resource Pools," Working papers 147, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  4. Hartwick, John M. & Kemp, Murray C. & Van Long, Ngo, 1986. "Set-up costs and theory of exhaustible resources," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 212-224, September.
  5. Loury, Glenn C, 1978. "The Optimal Exploitation of an Unknown Reserve," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(3), pages 621-36, October.
  6. Kimball, Miles S, 1990. "Precautionary Saving in the Small and in the Large," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(1), pages 53-73, January.
  7. Pindyck, Robert S, 1980. "Uncertainty and Exhaustible Resource Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(6), pages 1203-25, December.
  8. David I. Laibson, 1996. "Hyperbolic Discount Functions, Undersaving, and Savings Policy," NBER Working Papers 5635, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Gilbert, Richard J, 1979. "Optimal Depletion of an Uncertain Stock," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(1), pages 47-57, January.
  10. Akerlof, George A, 1991. "Procrastination and Obedience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 1-19, May.
  11. William D. Nordhaus, 1973. "The Allocation of Energy Resources," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 4(3), pages 529-576.
  12. Loewenstein, George & Prelec, Drazen, 1992. "Anomalies in Intertemporal Choice: Evidence and an Interpretation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 573-97, May.
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