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American Economic Journal: Microeconomics: Vol. 4 No. 4 (November 2012)

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The Evolutionary Basis of Time Preference: Intergenerational Transfers and Sex

Article Citation

Robson, Arthur J., Balazs Szentes, and Emil Iantchev. 2012. "The Evolutionary Basis of Time Preference: Intergenerational Transfers and Sex." American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, 4(4): 172-201.

DOI: 10.1257/mic.4.4.172

Abstract

We consider the evolutionary basis of time discounting with intergenerational transfers. We show that the notion of "reproductive value" from biology provides the utility criterion for a parent to optimize the allocation of resources between transfers to offspring and to promote her own survival. This optimization has a natural dynamic programming formulation. We show that younger individuals may well be "too impatient," but older individuals "too patient" in accordance with observations. We compare the allocation of resources under sexual reproduction to that where there is asexual reproduction. Sex distorts time discounting; under plausible conditions, sex increases patience. (JEL A12, D91)

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Authors

Robson, Arthur J. (Simon Fraser U)
Szentes, Balazs (London School of Economics and Political Science)
Iantchev, Emil (Syracuse U)

JEL Classifications

A12: Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
D91: Intertemporal Consumer Choice; Life Cycle Models and Saving

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