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Asset Management Fees and the Growth of Finance


  • Burton G. Malkiel


From 1980 to 2006, the financial services sector of the US economy grew from 4.9 percent to 8.3 percent of GDP. A substantial share of that increase was comprised of increases in the fees paid for asset management. This paper examines the significant increase in asset management fees charged to both individual and institutional investors. One could argue that the increase in fees charged by actively managed funds could prove to be socially useful if it reflected increasing returns for investors from active management or if it was necessary to improve the efficiency of the market for investors who availed themselves of low-cost passive (index) funds. But neither of these arguments can be supported by the data. Actively managed funds of publicly traded securities have consistently underperformed index funds, and the amount of the underperformance is well approximated by the difference in the fees charged by the two types of funds. Moreover, it appears that there was no change in the efficiency of the market from 1980 to 2011. Thus, the increase in fees is likely to represent a deadweight loss for investors. Indeed, perhaps the greatest inefficiency in the stock market is in "the market" for investment advice.

Suggested Citation

  • Burton G. Malkiel, 2013. "Asset Management Fees and the Growth of Finance," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 97-108, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:27:y:2013:i:2:p:97-108 Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.27.2.97

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kenneth R. French, 2008. "Presidential Address: The Cost of Active Investing," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 63(4), pages 1537-1573, August.
    2. Michael C. Jensen, 1968. "The Performance Of Mutual Funds In The Period 1945–1964," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 23(2), pages 389-416, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:aosoci:v:59:y:2017:i:c:p:31-43 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Fricke, Christoph & Fricke, Daniel, 2017. "Vulnerable asset management? The case of mutual funds," Discussion Papers 32/2017, Deutsche Bundesbank.
    3. Kent Daniel & David Hirshleifer, 2015. "Overconfident Investors, Predictable Returns, and Excessive Trading," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 29(4), pages 61-88, Fall.
    4. Yellen, Janet L., 2015. "Finance and Society : a speech at the "Finance and Society," a conference sponsored by Institute for New Economic Thinking, Washington, D.C., May 6, 2015," Speech 848, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    5. Hirshleifer, David & Daniel, Kent, 2015. "Overconfident investors, predictable returns, and excessive trading," MPRA Paper 69002, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Lai, Wan-Ni, 2016. "Do academic investment insights benefit society?," Research in International Business and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 172-176.
    7. Jonathan Zinman, 2014. "Consumer Credit: Too Much or Too Little (or Just Right)?," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(S2), pages 209-237.
    8. Dirk Broeders & Arco van Oord & David Rijsbergen, 2017. "Does it pay to pay performance fees? Empirical evidence from Dutch pension funds," DNB Working Papers 561, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E23 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Production
    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G23 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors
    • G24 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Investment Banking; Venture Capital; Brokerage


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