Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Publications Database

Time discounting and economic decision-making in the older population

Huffman, David
Mitchell, Olivia S.
Link External Source: Online Version
Year: 2017
Keywords: Impatience; Time preference; Self-control; Retirement; Health; Insurance
Abstract: This paper examines heterogeneity in time discounting among a representative sample of elderly Americans, as well as its role in explaining key economic behaviors at older ages. We show how older Americans evaluate simple (hypothetical) inter-temporal choices in which payments today are compared with payments in the future. Using the indicators derived from this measure, we then demonstrate that differences in discounting patterns are associated with characteristics of particular importance in elderly populations. For example, cognitive deficits are associated with greater impatience, whereas bequest motives are associated with less impatience. We then relate our discounting measure to key economic outcomes and find that impatience is associated with lower wealth, fewer investments in health, and less planning for end of life care.