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Procrastination on Long-Term Projects

  • Ted O'Donoghue

    (Cornell University)

  • Matthew Rabin

    (University of California, Berkeley)

Previous papers on time-inconsistent procrastination assume projects are completed once begun. We develop a model in which a person chooses whether and when to complete each stage of a long-term project. In addition to procrastination in starting a project, a naive person might undertake costly effort to begin a project but then never complete it. When the costs of completing different stages are more unequal, procrastination is more likely, and it is when later stages are more c- ostly that people start but don't finish projects. Moreover, if the structure of costs over the course of a project is endogenous, people are prone to choose cost structures that lead them to start but not finish projects. We also consider several extensions of the model that further illustrate how people may incur costs on projects they never complete.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Method and Hist of Econ Thought with number 0303003.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: 19 Mar 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpmh:0303003
Note: 42 pages, Acrobat .pdf
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  1. Ted O'Donoghue & Matthew Rabin, 1999. "Incentives For Procrastinators," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 769-816, August.
  2. Akerlof, George A, 1991. "Procrastination and Obedience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 1-19, May.
  3. George-Marios Angeletos, 2001. "The Hyberbolic Consumption Model: Calibration, Simulation, and Empirical Evaluation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 47-68, Summer.
  4. Carrillo, Juan D & Mariotti, Thomas, 2000. "Strategic Ignorance as a Self-Disciplining Device," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(3), pages 529-44, July.
  5. David I. Laibson & Andrea Repetto & Jeremy Tobacman, 1998. "Self-Control and Saving for Retirement," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 29(1), pages 91-196.
  6. 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.
  7. O'Donoghue, Ted & Rabin, Matthew, 2000. "Choice and Procrastination," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt5r26k54p, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  8. Ainslie, George, 1991. "Derivation of "Rational" Economic Behavior from Hyperbolic Discount Curves," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 334-40, May.
  9. Stefano DellaVigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2006. "Paying Not to Go to the Gym," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 694-719, June.
  10. Ted O'Donoghue & Matthew Rabin, 1996. "Doing It Now or Later," Discussion Papers 1172, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  11. Laibson, David, 1998. "Life-cycle consumption and hyperbolic discount functions," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 861-871, May.
  12. Fischer, Carolyn, 1999. "Read This Paper Even Later: Procrastination with Time-Inconsistent Preferences," Discussion Papers dp-99-20, Resources For the Future.
  13. 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.
  14. Loewenstein, George & Thaler, Richard H, 1989. "Intertemporal Choice," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 181-93, Fall.
  15. Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 1999. "Self-Confidence: Intrapersonal Strategies," Working Papers 152, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Discussion Papers in Economics..
  16. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2002. "Self-Confidence And Personal Motivation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 871-915, August.
  17. Thaler, Richard, 1981. "Some empirical evidence on dynamic inconsistency," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 201-207.
  18. 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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