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Individual Preferences, Monetary Gambles, and Stock Market Participation: A Case for Narrow Framing


  • Nicholas Barberis
  • Ming Huang
  • Richard H. Thaler


We argue that ?narrow framing,? whereby an agent who is offered a new gamble evaluates that gamble in isolation, may be a more important feature of decisionmaking than previously realized. Our starting point is the evidence that people are often averse to a small, independent gamble, even when the gamble is actuarially favorable. We find that a surprisingly wide range of utility functions, including many nonexpected utility specifications, have trouble explaining this evidence, but that this difficulty can be overcome by allowing for narrow framing. Our analysis makes predictions as to what kinds of preferences can most easily address the stock market participation puzzle. (JEL D81, G11)

Suggested Citation

  • Nicholas Barberis & Ming Huang & Richard H. Thaler, 2006. "Individual Preferences, Monetary Gambles, and Stock Market Participation: A Case for Narrow Framing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1069-1090, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:96:y:2006:i:4:p:1069-1090 Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.96.4.1069

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Larry G. Epstein & Martin Schneider, 2007. "Learning Under Ambiguity," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(4), pages 1275-1303.
    2. Epstein, Larry G. & Zin, Stanley E., 2001. "The independence axiom and asset returns," Journal of Empirical Finance, Elsevier, vol. 8(5), pages 537-572, December.
    3. Ang, Andrew & Bekaert, Geert & Liu, Jun, 2005. "Why stocks may disappoint," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 471-508, June.
    4. Gul, Faruk, 1991. "A Theory of Disappointment Aversion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(3), pages 667-686, May.
    5. Haliassos, Michael & Bertaut, Carol C, 1995. "Why Do So Few Hold Stocks?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 105(432), pages 1110-1129, September.
    6. Nicholas Barberis & Ming Huang & Tano Santos, 2001. "Prospect Theory and Asset Prices," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 1-53.
    7. 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.
    8. Epstein, Larry G & Zin, Stanley E, 1989. "Substitution, Risk Aversion, and the Temporal Behavior of Consumption and Asset Returns: A Theoretical Framework," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(4), pages 937-969, July.
    9. Alma Cohen & Liran Einav, 2007. "Estimating Risk Preferences from Deductible Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 745-788, June.
    10. Nicholas Barberis & Ming Huang, 2006. "The Loss Aversion / Narrow Framing Approach to the Equity Premium Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 12378, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Raj Chetty, 2004. "Consumption Commitments, Unemployment Durations, and Local Risk Aversion," NBER Working Papers 10211, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Nicholas Barberis & Ming Huang & Richard Thaler, 2003. "Individual Preferences, Monetary Gambles and the Equity Premium," NBER Working Papers 9997, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions


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