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Leverage and Beliefs: Personal Experience and Risk-Taking in Margin Lending

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  • Peter Koudijs
  • Hans-Joachim Voth

Abstract

What determines risk-bearing capacity and the amount of leverage in financial markets? Using unique archival data on collateralized lending, we show that personal experience can affect individual risk-taking and aggregate leverage. When an investor syndicate speculating in Amsterdam in 1772 went bankrupt, many lenders were exposed. In the end, none of them actually lost money. Nonetheless, only those at risk of losing money changed their behavior markedly; they lent with much higher haircuts. The rest continued largely as before. The differential change is remarkable since the distress was public knowledge. Overall leverage in the Amsterdam stock market declined as a result.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Koudijs & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2016. "Leverage and Beliefs: Personal Experience and Risk-Taking in Margin Lending," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(11), pages 3367-3400, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:106:y:2016:i:11:p:3367-3400
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.20140259
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • G14 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Information and Market Efficiency; Event Studies; Insider Trading
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G33 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Bankruptcy; Liquidation
    • N23 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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