Patience decreases with age for the poor but not for the rich: an international comparison

Giovanni Burro, Rebecca McDonald, Daniel Read, Umar Taj

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We introduce the Preference for Earlier versus Later Income (PELI) scale, measuring patience for over 50,000 individuals from 65 countries. We focus on the relationship between age and income on patience, two variables that have been widely studied in isolation. We find that, within countries, individuals in the richest income quintile are equally patient at any age while individuals in the poorest quintile are less patient the older they are. The relationships in the other quintiles are distributed in an orderly manner between these extremes. We derive a national patience index that correlates with characteristics linked to economic development, with cultural differences associated with patience, and with alternative more complex measures of patience. We recommend adopting PELI in international surveys.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)596-621
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior and Organization
Early online date20 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • Patience
  • Time Discounting
  • Age
  • Income
  • World


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