Journal of Risk and Uncertainty

, Volume 55, Issue 2–3, pp 119–145 | Cite as

Time preferences and consumer behavior

  • David Bradford
  • Charles Courtemanche
  • Garth HeutelEmail author
  • Patrick McAlvanah
  • Christopher Ruhm


We investigate the predictive power of survey-elicited time preferences. The discount factor elicited from choice experiments using real payments predicts various health, energy, and financial outcomes, including overall self-reported health, smoking, installing energy-efficient lighting, and credit card balance. Allowing for time-inconsistent preferences, both the long-run and present-bias discount factors (δ and β) are also significantly associated in the expected direction with several outcomes. We consider several hypotheses regarding the strength of the association between discount factors and outcomes, such as salience of the outcome or liquidity constraints.


Time preferences Time-inconsistency Health Energy Risk and time Discounting Present bias 

JEL Classifications

D91 D03 I12 Q40 D14 



We thank Will Mautz and Camden Sweed for valuable research assistance, Georgia State University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis for funding, Darren Lubotsky for providing his code to implement the multiple proxies procedure, and Allen Bellas and conference and seminar participants at UNCG, GSU, Georgia Tech, the Federal Trade Commission, the Midwest Economics Association meetings, and the Harvard Center For Risk Analysis’s March 2014 “Risk, Perception, and Response” conference for helpful comments. Ruhm thanks the University of Virginia Bankard Fund for partial financial support. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Federal Trade Commission.

Supplementary material

11166_2018_9272_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.2 mb)
ESM 1 (PDF 1248 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Bradford
    • 1
  • Charles Courtemanche
    • 2
    • 3
  • Garth Heutel
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  • Patrick McAlvanah
    • 5
  • Christopher Ruhm
    • 3
    • 6
  1. 1.University of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Georgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research)CambridgeUSA
  4. 4.Department of EconomicsGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  5. 5.Federal Trade CommissionWashingtonUSA
  6. 6.University of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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