Discounting Beyond Death
Reinvention journal volume 13 issue 1 cover


intergenerational discounting
societal preferences
economics of climate change


How do people value the welfare of future generations? This question is of special importance now that future generations’ welfare is at stake because of expected climate change. This paper looks into people’s preferences regarding intergenerational distribution of welfare. It replicates research on the discounting of life saving and uses a new question that aims to measure the valuation of future generations’ standard of life. Data is obtained from an online questionnaire (N = 138) and shows values for the discount factors that indicate decreasing valuation of future welfare. Heterogeneity is observed in distributions between one’s descendants and between future generations in general. This might be explained by the superiority of either kinship-related or ethical motives that would differ for both sorts. Obtained discount factors possibly reflect decreasing connectedness to generations over time, until the point where such generations are considered strangers and no further discounting takes place. The effect of major life events such as grandparenthood also fit this explanatory framework. Changes in demographic factors could therefore translate to changes in intergenerational discounting. Exact predictions of these and other relationships should be confirmed by further research.
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