Under Review

Microfoundations of Discounting

Decision theory Temporal discounting Ergodicity economics

Cite as:

Alexander Adamou and Yonatan Berman and Diomides Mavroyiannis and Ole Peters (2019). Microfoundations of Discounting. RESEARCHERS.ONE, https://www.researchers.one/article/2019-10-7.


An important question in economics is how people choose between different payments in the future. The classical normative model predicts that a decision maker discounts a later payment relative to an earlier one by an exponential function of the time between them. Descriptive models use non-exponential functions to fit observed behavioral phenomena, such as preference reversal. Here we propose a model of discounting, consistent with standard axioms of choice, in which decision makers maximize the growth rate of their wealth. Four specifications of the model produce four forms of discounting - no discounting, exponential, hyperbolic, and a hybrid of exponential and hyperbolic - two of which predict preference reversal. Our model requires no assumption of behavioral bias or payment risk.