Preferences, Ability, and Personality : Understanding Decision-making Under Risk and Delay

Abstract : Preferences, ability, and personality predict a wide range of economic outcomes. I establish a mapping between them in a structural framework of decision-making under risk and delay using unique experimental data with information on over 100 incentivized choice tasks for each of more than 1,200 individuals.I jointly estimate population distributions of risk and time preferences complete with their individual-level stability and of people’s propensity to make mistakes. I am the first to do so using the Random Preference Model (RPM) which has been recently shown to have desirable theoretical properties over previously used frameworks. I show that the RPM has high internal validity. The five estimated structural parameters largely dominate a wide range of demographic and socio-economic variables when it comes to explaining observed individual choices between risky lotteries and time-separated payments.I demonstrate the economic and econometric significance of appending shocks directly to preferences and of incorporating the trembling hand parameter - their necessary complement in this framework. Mistakes and preference instability are not only separately identified but they are also linked to different cognitive and non-cognitive skills. I propose a Rationality Index which condenses them into a single indicator predictive of welfare loss.I use a factor model to extract cognitive ability and Big Five personality traits from noisy measures. They explain up to 50% of the variation in both average preferences and in individuals’ capacity to make consistent rational choices. Conscientiousness explains 45% and 10% respectively of the cross-sectional variation discount rates and risk aversion respectively as well as 20% of the variation in their individual-level stability. Furthermore, risk aversion is related to extraversion and mistakes are a function of cognitive ability, task design, and of effort. Preferences are stable for the median individual. Nevertheless, a part of the population exhibits some degree of preference instability consistent with imperfect self-knowledge.These results have implications both for specifying reduced form and structural economic models, and for explaining inequality and the inter-generational transmission of socioeconomic status.
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Tomáš Jagelka. Preferences, Ability, and Personality : Understanding Decision-making Under Risk and Delay. Economics and Finance. Université Paris-Saclay, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019SACLX028⟩. ⟨tel-02162242⟩

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