James Andreoni, John A List
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James Andreoni, Michael Kuhn, John A List, Anya Samek, Charles Sprenger
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Time preferences have been correlated with a range of life outcomes, yet little is known about their early development. We conduct a field experiment to elicit time preferences of nearly 1,000 children ages 3-12, who make several inter temporal decisions. To shed light on how such primitives form, we explore various channels that might affect time preferences, from background characteristics to the causal impact of an early schooling program that we developed and operated. Our results suggest that time preferences evolve substantially during this period with younger children displaying more impatience than older children. We also find a strong association with race: black children, relative to white or Hispanic children, are more impatient. Interestingly, parents of black children are also much more impatient than parents of white and Hispanic children. Finally, assignment to different schooling opportunities is not significantly associated with child time preferences.
James Andreoni, John A List
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James Andreoni, Amalia Di Girolamo, John A List, Claire Mackevicius, Anya Samek
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We conduct experiments eliciting risk preferences with over 1,400 children and adolescents aged 3-15 years old. We complement our data with an assessment of cognitive and executive function skills. First, we find that adolescent girls display significantly greater risk aversion than adolescent boys. This pattern is not observed among young children, suggesting that the risk gap in risk preferences emerges in early adolescence. Second, we find that at all ages in our study, cognitive skills (specifically math ability) are positively associated with risk taking. Executive functions among children, and soft skills among adolescents, are negatively associated with risk taking. Third, we find that greater risk-tolerance is associated with higher likelihood of disciplinary referrals, which provides evidence that our task is equipped to measure a relevant behavioral outcome. For academics, our research provides a deeper understanding of the developmental origins of risk preferences and highlights the important role of cognitive and executive function skills to better understand the association between risk preferences and cognitive abilities over the studied age range.
James Andreoni, Michael Callen, Karrar Hussain, Muhammad Yasir Khan, Charles Sprenger
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We use structural estimates of time preferences to customize incentives for a sample of polio vaccinators during a series of door-to-door vaccination drives in Pakistan. Our investigation proceeds in three stages. First, we measure time preferences using intertemporal allocations of vaccinations. Second, we derive the mapping between these structural estimates and individually optimal incentives given a specific policy objective. Third, we experimentally evaluate the effect of matching contract terms to individual discounting patterns in a subsequent experiment with the same vaccinators. This exercise provides a test of the specific point predictions given by structural estimates of time preference. We document present bias among vaccinators and find that tailored contracts achieve the intended policy objective of smoothing intertemporal allocations of effort.
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