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Anomalies: Risk Aversion

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  • Matthew Rabin
  • Richard H. Thaler

Abstract

Economists ubiquitously employ a simple and elegant explanation for risk aversion: It derives from the concavity of the utility-of-wealth function within the expected-utility framework. We show that this explanation is not plausible in most applications, since anything more than economically negligible risk aversion over moderate stakes requires a utility-of-wealth function that is so concave that it predicts absurdly severe risk aversion over very large stakes. We present examples of how the expected-utility framework has misled economists, and why we believe a better explanation for risk aversion must incorporate loss aversion and mental accounting.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.15.1.219
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 15 (2001)
Issue (Month): 1 (Winter)
Pages: 219-232

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:15:y:2001:i:1:p:219-232

Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.15.1.219
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  1. Benartzi, Shlomo & Thaler, Richard H, 1995. "Myopic Loss Aversion and the Equity Premium Puzzle," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(1), pages 73-92, February.
  2. Rabin, Matthew, 2000. "Diminishing Marginal Utility of Wealth Cannot Explain Risk Aversion," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt61d7b4pg, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  3. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7656, David K. Levine.
  4. De Long, J Bradford, et al, 1991. "The Survival of Noise Traders in Financial Markets," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64(1), pages 1-19, January.
  5. Machina, Mark J, 1987. "Choice under Uncertainty: Problems Solved and Unsolved," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 121-54, Summer.
  6. Daniel Kahneman & Dan Lovallo, 1993. "Timid Choices and Bold Forecasts: A Cognitive Perspective on Risk Taking," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 39(1), pages 17-31, January.
  7. Segal, Uzi & Spivak, Avia, 1990. "First order versus second order risk aversion," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 111-125, June.
  8. Gneezy, Uri & Potters, Jan, 1997. "An Experiment on Risk Taking and Evaluation Periods," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 631-45, May.
  9. Harry Markowitz, 1952. "The Utility of Wealth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60, pages 151.
  10. Harless, David W & Camerer, Colin F, 1994. "The Predictive Utility of Generalized Expected Utility Theories," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(6), pages 1251-89, November.
  11. Mankiw, N. Gregory & Zeldes, Stephen P., 1991. "The consumption of stockholders and nonstockholders," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 97-112, March.
  12. Cicchetti, Charles J & Dubin, Jeffrey A, 1994. "A Microeconometric Analysis of Risk Aversion and the Decision to Self-Insure," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(1), pages 169-86, February.
  13. Epstein, Larry G. & Zin, Stanley E., 1990. "'First-order' risk aversion and the equity premium puzzle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 387-407, December.
  14. Daniel Kahneman & Jack L. Knetsch & Richard H. Thaler, 1991. "Anomalies: The Endowment Effect, Loss Aversion, and Status Quo Bias," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 193-206, Winter.
  15. Graham Loomes & Uzi Segal, . "Observing Different Orders of Risk Aversion," Discussion Papers 92/5, Department of Economics, University of York.
  16. Matthew Rabin, 2001. "Risk Aversion and Expected Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7667, David K. Levine.
  17. Thaler, Richard H, et al, 1997. "The Effect of Myopia and Loss Aversion on Risk Taking: An Experimental Test," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 647-61, May.
  18. Cubitt, Robin P. & Sugden, Robert, 2001. "On Money Pumps," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 121-160, October.
  19. Milton Friedman & L. J. Savage, 1948. "The Utility Analysis of Choices Involving Risk," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56, pages 279.
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