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Risk aversion and expected utility of consumption over time

  • Johansson-Stenman, Olof

The calibration theorem by Rabin [Rabin, M., 2000a. Risk aversion and expected utility theory: A calibration theorem. Econometrica 68, 1281-1292; Rabin, M., 2000b. Diminishing marginal utility of wealth cannot explain risk aversion. In: Kahneman, D., Tversky, A. (Eds.), Choices, Values and Frames. Cambridge University Press] implies that seemingly plausible small-stake choices under risk imply implausible large-stake risk aversion. This theorem is derived based on the expected utility of wealth model. However, Cox and Sadiraj [Cox, J.C., Sadiraj, V., 2006. Small- and large-stakes risk aversion: Implications of concavity calibration for decision theory. Games Econ. Behav. 56, 45-60] show that such implications do not follow from the expected utility of income model. One may then wonder about the implications for more applied consumption analysis. The present paper therefore expresses utility as a function of consumption in a standard life cycle model, and illustrates the implications of this model with experimental small- and intermediate-stake risk data from Holt and Laury [Holt, C.A., Laury, S.K., 2002. Risk aversion and incentive effects. Amer. Econ. Rev. 92, 1644-1655]. The results suggest implausible risk aversion parameters as well as unreasonable implications for long-term risky choices. Thus, the conventional intertemporal consumption model under risk appears to be inconsistent with the data.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Games and Economic Behavior.

Volume (Year): 68 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 208-219

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Handle: RePEc:eee:gamebe:v:68:y:2010:i:1:p:208-219
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622836

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  1. Matthew Rabin, 2001. "Risk Aversion and Expected Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7667, David K. Levine.
  2. Merton, Robert C., 1971. "Optimum consumption and portfolio rules in a continuous-time model," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 373-413, December.
  3. James C. Cox & Vjollca Sadiraj, . "Small- and Large-Stakes Risk Aversion: Implications of Concavity Calibration for Decision Theory," Experimental Economics Center Working Paper Series 2006-03, Experimental Economics Center, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
  4. Matthew Rabin, 2001. "Diminishing Marginal Utility of Wealth Cannot Explain Risk Aversion," Game Theory and Information 0012002, EconWPA.
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  7. Gomes, Francisco J & Michaelides, Alexander, 2005. "Optimal Life-Cycle Asset Allocation: Understanding the Empirical Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 4853, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Blundell, Richard & Browning, Martin & Meghir, Costas, 1994. "Consumer Demand and the Life-Cycle Allocation of Household Expenditures," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(1), pages 57-80, January.
  9. Kobberling, Veronika & Wakker, Peter P., 2005. "An index of loss aversion," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 122(1), pages 119-131, May.
  10. 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.
  11. Charles A. Holt & Susan K. Laury, 2002. "Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1644-1655, December.
  12. Laura Schechter, 2007. "Risk aversion and expected-utility theory: A calibration exercise," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 35(1), pages 67-76, August.
  13. Ariel Rubinstein, 2004. "Dilemmas of an Economic Theorist," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 661, Econometric Society.
  14. Glenn W. Harrison & Morten I. Lau & E. Elisabet Rutström, 2007. "Estimating Risk Attitudes in Denmark: A Field Experiment," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 109(2), pages 341-368, 06.
  15. Heinemann, Frank, 2005. "Measuring Risk Aversion and the Wealth Effect," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 156, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  16. Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2009. "Risk Aversion and Expected Utility of Consumption over Time," Working Papers in Economics 351, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  17. Attanasio, O.P. & Browning, M., 1993. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle and Over the Business Cycle," Papers 9314, Tilburg - Center for Economic Research.
  18. Matthew Rabin & Richard H. Thaler, 2002. "Response [Anomalies: Risk Aversion]," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(2), pages 229-230, Spring.
  19. Deaton, Angus, 1992. "Understanding Consumption," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288244, March.
  20. Palacios-Huerta, Ignacio & Serrano, Roberto, 2006. "Rejecting small gambles under expected utility," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 250-259, May.
  21. James C. Cox & Vjollca Sadiraj, 2008. "Risky Decisions in the Large and in the Small: Theory and Experiment," Experimental Economics Center Working Paper Series 2008-01, Experimental Economics Center, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
  22. Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2002. "Limited Asset Market Participation and the Elasticity of Intertemporal Substitution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(4), pages 825-853, August.
  23. Matthew Rabin & Richard H. Thaler, 2001. "Anomalies: Risk Aversion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(1), pages 219-232, Winter.
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