In a 2010 paper on time preferences*, the authors Mei Wang et al. conducted an experiment in which participants could choose either $3400 now or $3800 a month later. Now I would choose the latter option but maybe it’s just because I’m intelligent and have been living in the West for quite a while. In other countries this is not the obvious choice however.
We see the usual correlates. Countries that are richer; more Germanic; less corrupt; more intelligent – they all have more future time orientation. In countries that have a Communist legacy future time orientations are perhaps lower than we might expect them to be otherwise.
This all of not insubstantial relevance because time preference can have an impact on economic structure and social life. For instance, as the paper notes, societies with higher future time orientation are likely to devote more attention to the environment. They are also likely to devote a greater share of their GDP to R&D.