Very Long-Run Discount Rates

From Stefano Giglio, Matteo Maggiori, Johannes Stroebel:

We provide the first direct estimates of how agents trade off immediate costs and un- certain future benefits that occur in the very long run, 100 or more years away. We exploit a unique feature of housing markets in England, Wales and Singapore, where residential property ownership takes the form of either leaseholds or freeholds. Leaseholds are temporary, pre-paid, and tradable ownership contracts with maturities between 50 and 999 years, while freeholds are perpetual ownership contracts. The difference between leasehold and freehold prices represents the present value of perpetual rental income starting at leasehold expiry. We estimate the price discounts for varying leasehold maturities compared to freeholds and extremely long-run leaseholds via hedonic regressions using proprietary datasets of the universe of transactions in each country. Agents discount very long-run cash flows at low rates, assigning high present values to cash flows hundreds of years in the future. For example, 100-year leaseholds are valued up to 15% less than otherwise identical freeholds. Given the riskiness of rents, this suggests that both long-term risk-free discount rates and long-term risk premia are low. Together with the relatively high average return to housing, this also implies a downward sloping term structure of discount rates. Our results provide a new testing ground for asset-pricing theories, including the analysis of bubbles, and have direct implications for climate-change policy, long-run fiscal policy and the conduct of cost- benefit analyses. We find that households are relatively more willing to pay today to reduce for sure climate costs in the distant future, but relatively less willing to pay to only reduce the risk of bad climate outcomes, compared to the leading environmental models. 

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About ozidar

I'm an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a Faculty Research Fellow at National Bureau of Economic Research. You can follow me on twitter @omzidar. http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/owen.zidar/index.html
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