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David Laibson's Mug ShotHarvard College Professor, Robert I. Goldman Professor of Economics, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA

Main topics: Macroeconomics, finance, behavioral economics and finance, psychology and economics, experimental economics. Savings, consumption, intertemporal choice, neuroeconomics, household finance, bounded rationality

Professional profile: David Isaac Laibson is a professor of economics at Harvard University, where he has taught since 1994. His research focuses on macroeconomics, intertemporal choice, behavioral economics and neuroeconomics.

He received an A.B. (summa) from Harvard in 1988, studying under Benjamin M. Friedman, and went on to study at the London School of Economics (MSc. in Econometrics and Mathematical Economics) where he was a recipient of a Marshall Scholarship. He received his PhD from MIT in 1994 and joined the faculty at Harvard once he graduated. He has since gained tenure.

At Harvard, he teaches a popular undergraduate class on "Psychology and Economics". In addition he teaches graduate courses on macroeconomics, behavioral economics and dynamic programming. His research has been published in prestigious journals such as the QJE, AER, JEP, Econometrica, and Science. Laibson is perhaps best known within economics for his work on time inconsistency, especially his model of quasi-hyperbolic discounting. One of his most prominent early contributions has been the "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting" paper in QJE, 1997 where he studied the intertemporal behavior of a time-inconsistent consumer. This work provides a tractable model for self-control problems, in which agents have difficulty sticking to their longterm goals. Agents in Professor Laibson's models generally value "commitment devices," such as 401(k) plans or housing equity, that let them accumulate assets without as much temptation to splurge. These models also explain the "debt puzzle," that American consumers demonstrate both short-run impatience and long-run patience in their lifecycle savings decisions. Laibson has since developed hyperbolic discounting research in many directions, from more advanced theoretical models to computational macroeconomics to conceptual applications.

His own applications of his models have focused primarily on retirement savings, with considerable empirical work on 401(k) plans. He has acquired access to a proprietary dataset of the 401(k) plan account information for several dozen companies, which has let him look empirically at the effects of various 401(k) plan designs and on the investment strategies of the plan participants. Perhaps the most important result to come from this research is that plan participants tend to follow the "path of least resistance," showing remarkable responsiveness to defaults and other context effects from plan design. For example, a company can dramatically increase participation in its 401(k) plan if it moves to a default of automatically enrolling employees in the 401(k) plan unless they take a minor step to opt out. However, the employees tend to stick at the default contribution rates and investment allocations.


Profilo accademico:
  • A.B. Economics Summa Cum Laude, Harvard University, 1988
  • M. Sc. Econometrics and Mathematical Economics, with Distinction, London School of econmics, 1990
  • Ph. D. Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1994



Opere Scelte:
  • Choi James, David Laibson, Brigitte Madrian. "0 Bills on the Sidewalk: Suboptimal Saving in 401(k) Plans". Review of Economics and Statistics. Forthcoming
  • Choi, James, David Laibson, Brigitte Madrian. "Why does the law of one price fail? An experiment on index mutual funds". Review of Financial Studies. Forthcoming
  • Laibson, David e Johanna Mollerstrom. "Capital Flows, Consumption Booms and Asset Bubbles: A Behavioural Alternative to the Savings Glut Hypothesis"Economic Journal. Forthcoming
  • Beshears, John,  James Choi, David Laibson e Brigitte C. Madrian. The Impact of Employer Matching on Savings Plan Participation under Automatic Enrollment. Research Findings in the Economics of Aging. David A. Wise, editor. Forthcoming
  • Beshears, John, James Choi, David Laibson e Brigitte C. Madrian. How Does Simplified Disclosure Affect Individuals' Mutual Fund Choices? Explorations in the Economics of Aging. David A. Wise, editor. Forthcoming. Summarized in July 2009 NBER Digest
  • Beshears, John, James J. Choi, David Laibson, Brigitte C. Madrian e Brian Weller. 2010. Public Policy and Saving for Retirement: The "Autosave" Features of the Pension Protection Act of 2006. Better Living Through Economics
  • Agarwal, Sumit, John Driscoll, Xavier Gabaix, e David Laibson. 2009. The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions over the Life-Cycle and Implications for RegulationBrookings Papers on Economic Activity
  • Choi, James, David Laibson, Brigitte C. Madrian e Andrew Metrick. 2009. "Reinforcement Learning and Savings Behavior". Journal of Finance
  • Carroll, Gabriel D., James Choi, David Laibson, Brigitte C. Madrian e Andrew Metrick. 2009. "Optimal Defaults and Active Decisions". Quarterly Journal of Economics
  • Choi, James J., David Laibson, Brigitte C. Madrian. 2009. "Mental Accounting in Portfolio Choice: Evidence from a Flypaper Effect". American Economic Review
  • Chabris, C.F., D.I. Laibson, C.L. Morris, J.P. Schuldt, J.P. e D. Taubinsky. 2009. "The allocation of time in decision-making". Journal of the European Economic Association