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Intertemporal Choice under Habit Formation

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  • Ernst Fehr
  • Peter K. Zych

Abstract

Many of the most important choices in people's lives have an inter-temporal dimension, i.e., these choices are associated with a flow of benefits or costs that accrue in the future. In addition, such choices are frequently habit-forming. Yet, little is known about habit-forming inter-temporal choice behavior. This paper reports the results of an inter-temporal choice experiment with habit-formation. Subjects' choices deviate systematically from individually optimal decisions in the direction of over-consumption. This over-consumption is partly driven by loss avoidance, comparable to a real life situation in which addicted people consume addictive substances only in order to overpower withdrawal symptoms. Our results thus reject the theory of rational addiction.

Suggested Citation

  • Ernst Fehr & Peter K. Zych, "undated". "Intertemporal Choice under Habit Formation," IEW - Working Papers 043, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:043
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-1061.
    2. Fehr, Ernst & Zych, Peter K, 1998. " Do Addicts Behave Rationally?," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 100(3), pages 643-662, September.
    3. Martin Browning & Annamaria Lusardi, 1996. "Household Saving: Micro Theories and Micro Facts," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(4), pages 1797-1855, December.
    4. Becker, Gary S & Murphy, Kevin M, 1988. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(4), pages 675-700, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ernst Fehr & Lorenz Goette, 2000. "How Robust are Nominal Wage Rigidities?," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 0071, Econometric Society.
    2. Carbone, Enrica & Duffy, John, 2014. "Lifecycle consumption plans, social learning and external habits: Experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 413-427.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Inter-temporal Choice; Habit Formation; Addiction; Irrational Behaviour; Excess Consumption;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • 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
    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General

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