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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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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.15.1.219
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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. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7656, David K. Levine.
  2. Graham Loomes & Uzi Segal, . "Observing Different Orders of Risk Aversion," Discussion Papers 92/5, Department of Economics, University of York.
  3. Harry Markowitz, 1952. "The Utility of Wealth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60, pages 151.
  4. Matthew Rabin., 2000. "Diminishing Marginal Utility of Wealth Cannot Explain Risk Aversion," Economics Working Papers E00-287, University of California at Berkeley.
  5. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard H. Thaler, 1993. "Myopic Loss Aversion and the Equity Premium Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 4369, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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.
  7. De Long, J. Bradford & Shleifer, Andrei & Summers, Lawrence H. & Waldmann, Robert J., 1991. "The Survival of Noise Traders in Financial Markets," Scholarly Articles 3725470, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  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. 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.
  10. N. Gregory Mankiw & Stephen P. Zeldes, 1990. "The Consumption of Stockholders and Non-Stockholders," NBER Working Papers 3402, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Segal, Uzi & Spivak, Avia, 1990. "First order versus second order risk aversion," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 111-125, June.
  12. Matthew Rabin., 2000. "Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem," Economics Working Papers E00-279, University of California at Berkeley.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  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. Cubitt, Robin P. & Sugden, Robert, 2001. "On Money Pumps," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 121-160, October.
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