In economics, time preference (or time discounting, delay discounting, temporal discounting, long-term orientation) is the current relative valuation placed on receiving a good at an earlier date compared with receiving it at a later date.
There is no absolute distinction that separates “high” and “low” time preference, only comparisons with others either individually or in aggregate. Someone with a high time preference is focused substantially on their well-being in the present and the immediate future relative to the average person, while someone with low time preference places more emphasis than average on their well-being in the further future.
Time preferences are captured mathematically in the discount function. The higher the time preference, the higher the discount placed on returns receivable or costs payable in the future.
One of the factors that may determine an individual’s time preference is how long that individual has lived. An older individual may have a lower time preference (relative to what they had earlier in life) due to a higher income and to the fact that they have had more time to acquire durable commodities (such as a college education or a house).
Origin of differences in time preference across countries
Oded Galor and Omer Ozak explore the roots of observed differences in time preference across nations. They establish that pre-industrial agricultural characteristics that were favorable to higher return to agricultural investment triggered a process of selection, adaptation, and learning that brought about a higher prevalence of long-term orientation. These agricultural characteristics are associated with contemporary economic and human behavior such as technological adoption, education, saving, and smoking.
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From Wikipedia, so take it with a grain of salt.