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The social discount rate : estimates for nine Latin American countries

  • Lopez, Humberto

The social discount rate measures the rate at which a society would be willing to trade present for future consumption. As such it is one of the most critical inputs needed for cost-benefit analysis. This paper presents estimates of the social discount rates for nine Latin American countries. It is argued that if the recent track record in terms of growth in the region is indicative of future performance, estimates of the social discount rate would be in the 3-4 percent range. However, to the extent that the region improves on its past performance, the social discount rate to be used in the evaluation of projects would increase to the 5-7 percent range. The paper also argues that if the social planner gives a similar chance to the low and high growth scenario, the discount rate should be dependent on the horizon of the project, declining from 4.4 percent for a 25-year horizon to less than 4 percent for a 100-year horizon.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 4639.

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Date of creation: 01 Jun 2008
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4639
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  1. David Evans & Haluk Sezer, 2004. "Social discount rates for six major countries," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(9), pages 557-560.
  2. David J. Evans, 2005. "The elasticity of marginal utility of consumption: estimates for 20 OECD countries," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 26(2), pages 197-224, June.
  3. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
  4. Erhun Kula, 2004. "Estimation of a Social Rate of Interest for India," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(1), pages 91-99.
  5. David Evans, 2004. "A social discount rate for France," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(13), pages 803-808.
  6. Tjalling C. Koopmans, 1959. "Stationary Ordinal Utility and Impatience," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 81, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  7. Saul Pleeter & John T. Warner, 2001. "The Personal Discount Rate: Evidence from Military Downsizing Programs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 33-53, March.
  8. Otto Eckstein, 1961. "A Survey of the Theory of Public Expenditure Criteria," NBER Chapters, in: Public Finances: Needs, Sources, and Utilization, pages 439-504 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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