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Anomalies: Risk Aversion

  • Matthew Rabin
  • Richard H. Thaler

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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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. J. Bradford De Long & Andrei Shleifer & Lawrence H. Summers & Robert J. Waldmann, 1988. "The Survival of Noise Traders in Financial Markets," NBER Working Papers 2715, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7656, David K. Levine.
  3. Matthew Rabin, 2000. "Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1281-1292, September.
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  9. Loomes, Graham & Segal, Uzi, 1994. "Observing Different Orders of Risk Aversion," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 239-56, December.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Harry Markowitz, 1952. "The Utility of Wealth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60, pages 151.
  13. 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.
  14. 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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  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  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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