Columbia’s Professor Nachum Sicherman noticed that dancers often gather outside to smoke after performances. As he put it: “the contradiction of seeing a person smoke who you would assume puts a high premium on staying healthy [was puzzling].” He posited that smoking in this context indicated a present-oriented time preference, supported by the fact that dancers have relatively short careers with little prospect of future income. Specifically, Sicherman wondered whether smoking among dancers reflected a preference for present benefits over future benefits (smoking may be gratifying now but is injurious in the long-run). After studying the problem, he concluded that “smokers, presumably because they are more present-oriented, are more likely to self-select into jobs that have lower wage growth and invest less in their own human capital.” (see article)
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