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Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem

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  • Matthew Rabin

Abstract

Within the expected-utility framework, the only explanation for risk aversion is that the utility function for wealth is concave: A person has lower marginal utility for additional wealth when she is wealthy than when she is poor. This paper provides a theorem showing that expected-utility theory is an utterly implausible explanation for appreciable risk aversion over modest stakes: Within expected-utility theory, for any concave utility function, even very little risk aversion over modest stakes implies an absurd degree of risk aversion over large stakes. Illustrative calibrations are provided. June 2000

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Econometric Society in its journal Econometrica.

Volume (Year): 68 (2000)
Issue (Month): 5 (September)
Pages: 1281-1292

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Handle: RePEc:ecm:emetrp:v:68:y:2000:i:5:p:1281-1292

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  1. Bowman, David & Minehart, Deborah & Rabin, Matthew, 1999. "Loss aversion in a consumption-savings model," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 155-178, February.
  2. 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.
  3. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard H. Thaler, 1993. "Myopic Loss Aversion and the Equity Premium Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 4369, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Pratt, John W & Zeckhauser, Richard J, 1987. "Proper Risk Aversion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(1), pages 143-54, 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. Loomes, Graham & Segal, Uzi, 1994. "Observing Different Orders of Risk Aversion," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 239-56, December.
  9. Hellwig Martin F., 1995. "The Assessment of Large Compounds of Independent Gambles," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 299-326, December.
  10. 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.
  11. Kandel, S. & Stambaugh, R.F., 1990. "Asset Returns, Investment Horizons, And Intertemporal Preferences," Weiss Center Working Papers 7-90, Wharton School - Weiss Center for International Financial Research.
  12. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-91, March.
  13. 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.
  14. Read, Daniel & Loewenstein, George & Rabin, Matthew, 1999. "Choice Bracketing," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 19(1-3), pages 171-97, December.
  15. L. Epstein & S. Zin, 2010. "First order risk aversion and the equity premium puzzle," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1400, David K. Levine.
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  1. > Game Theory > Experimental Economics
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