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Time preference and decision rules in a price search experiment

  • Houser, Daniel

    ()

    (Department of Economics and Economic Science Laboratory, University of Arizona)

  • Winter, Joachim

    ()

    (Mannheim Research Institute for the Economics of Aging (MEA))

Structural econometric methods that assume agents have rational expectations are often criticized. Yet, little is known about the relative costs and benefits of adopting alternative empirical strategies. This paper compares three procedures for inference about a single structural parameter using data from a laboratory price search experiment. Our novel experimental design induces preferences up to the subjective rate of time preference, leaving unrestricted only this parameter and the decision rule that subjects use in solving the search task. We analyze the experimental data under the assumptions of both rational expectations and heuristic behavior, and we also draw inferences using a simple revealed preference analysis that does not require strong behavioral assumptions. We find that the revealed-preference analysis does not provide much information about the discount rate, while the two specifications with stronger behavioral assumptions provide sharper and statistically identical inferences about the population's discount rate distribution. However, substantial differences in inference appear at the individual level. We compare the individual discount-rate estimates to an external measure of forward looking behavior obtained for each subject using an instrument validated in the psychology literature. The estimates obtained under heuristic behavior are statistically significantly positively correlated with our external measure of time preference, while the estimates obtained under rational expectations and the revealed-preference estimates are not.

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File URL: http://www.sfb504.uni-mannheim.de/publications/dp01-34.pdf
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Paper provided by Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim & Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim in its series Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications with number 01-34.

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Length: 52 pages
Date of creation: 22 Sep 2000
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:xrs:sfbmaa:01-34
Note: Financial support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, SFB 504 at the University of Mannheim, is gratefully acknowledged.
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  1. Hey, John D., 1987. "Still searching," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 137-144, March.
  2. Allison, G. & Fudenberg, D., 1992. "Rules of Thumb for Social Learning," Working papers 92-12, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  3. Rust, John, 1987. "Optimal Replacement of GMC Bus Engines: An Empirical Model of Harold Zurcher," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(5), pages 999-1033, September.
  4. Krusell, Per & Smith, Anthony Jr., 1996. "Rules of thumb in macroeconomic equilibrium A quantitative analysis," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 527-558, April.
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  8. El-Gamal, Mahmoud A. & Grether, David M., 1995. "Are People Bayesian? Uncovering Behavioral Strategies," Working Papers 919, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  9. Geweke, John & Houser, Dan & Keane, Michael, 1999. "Simulation Based Inference for Dynamic Multinomial Choice Models," MPRA Paper 54279, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. Donkers, Bas & van Soest, Arthur, 1999. "Subjective measures of household preferences and financial decisions," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 20(6), pages 613-642, December.
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  14. Michael P. Keane & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 1995. "The career decisions of young men," Working Papers 559, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  15. Hey, John D., 1981. "Are optimal search rules reasonable? and vice versa? (And does it matter anyway?)," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 47-70, March.
  16. Thaler, Richard, 1981. "Some empirical evidence on dynamic inconsistency," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 201-207.
  17. Uri Benzion & Amnon Rapoport & Joseph Yagil, 1989. "Discount Rates Inferred from Decisions: An Experimental Study," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 35(3), pages 270-284, March.
  18. Andrew A. Samwick, 1997. "Discount Rate Heterogeneity and Social Security Reform," NBER Working Papers 6219, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. George Loewenstein & Drazen Prelec, 1992. "Anomalies in Intertemporal Choice: Evidence and an Interpretation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 573-597.
  20. George F. Loewenstein, 1988. "Frames of Mind in Intertemporal Choice," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 34(2), pages 200-214, February.
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