NBER Publications by Christopher Harris

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August 2015Self Control and Commitment: Can Decreasing the Liquidity of a Savings Account Increase Deposits?
with John Beshears, James J. Choi, David Laibson, Brigitte C. Madrian, Jung Sakong: w21474
If individuals have self-control problems, they may take up commitment contracts that restrict their spending. We experimentally investigate how contract design affects the demand for commitment contracts. Each participant divides money between a liquid account, which permits unrestricted withdrawals, and a commitment account with withdrawal restrictions that are randomized across participants. When the two accounts pay the same interest rate, the most illiquid commitment account attracts more money than any of the other commitment accounts. We show theoretically that this pattern is consistent with the presence of sophisticated present-biased agents, who prefer more illiquid commitment accounts even if they are subject to uninsurable marginal utility shocks drawn from a broad class of dis...
June 2010The Dynamics of Optimal Risk Sharing
with Patrick Bolton: w16094
We study a dynamic-contracting problem involving risk sharing between two parties -- the Proposer and the Responder -- who invest in a risky asset until an exogenous but random termination time. In any time period they must invest all their wealth in the risky asset, but they can share the underlying investment and termination risk. When the project ends they consume their final accumulated wealth. The Proposer and the Responder have constant relative risk aversion R and r respectively, with R>r>0. We show that the optimal contract has three components: a non-contingent flow payment, a share in investment risk and a termination payment. We derive approximations for the optimal share in investment risk and the optimal termination payment, and we use numerical simulations to show that these ...

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