Working Papers

To Vaccinate or to Procrastinate? That is the Prevention Question

Robert Nuscheler, Kerstin Roeder

Invoking Yaari’s dual theory we develop a model of individual vaccination decisions that incorporates quasi-hyperbolic discounting (present-biasedness), risk aversion, and information. We test the resulting hypotheses for the flu season 2010/2011 using a representative German data set. It turns out that quasi-hyperbolic discounting men vaccinate with a significantly lower probability than exponential discounters; they tend to procrastinate. There is no such delay in the prevention behavior of women who tend to vaccinate despite their distorted time preference. Risk aversion is positively related to the probability to vaccinate for men, while the association is negative for women. Well informed individuals have a much higher propensity to vaccinate than poorly informed individuals. Our results suggest that public health policy should not only concentrate on providing information about the flu and the flu shot but also increase the awareness that distorted time preferences may have a bearing on individual prevention decisions.

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Paper Keywords

flu shot, prevention, quasi-hyperbolic discounting, risk aversion, information, public health