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An analysis of risk-taking behavior for public defined benefit pension plans

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  • Mohan, Nancy
  • Zhang, Ting

Abstract

This paper presents the first comprehensive study on the determinants of public pension fund investment risk and reports several new important findings. Unlike private pension plans, public funds undertake more risk if they are underfunded and have lower investment returns in the previous years, consistent with the risk transfer hypothesis. Furthermore, pension funds in states facing fiscal constraints allocate more assets to equity and have higher betas. There also appears to be a herding effect in that CalPERS equity allocation or beta is mimicked by other pension funds. Finally, our results suggest that government accounting standards strongly affect pension fund risk, as higher return assumptions (used to discount pension liabilities) are associated with higher equity allocation and portfolio beta.

Suggested Citation

  • Mohan, Nancy & Zhang, Ting, 2014. "An analysis of risk-taking behavior for public defined benefit pension plans," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 403-419.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jbfina:v:40:y:2014:i:c:p:403-419
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jbankfin.2013.12.011
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Andreas Hoepner & Lisa Schopohl, 2015. "Red versus Blue: Do Political Dimensions Influence the Investment Preferences of State Pension Funds?," ICMA Centre Discussion Papers in Finance icma-dp2015-06, Henley Business School, Reading University.
    2. repec:eee:jimfin:v:84:y:2018:i:c:p:23-41 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Martin Boyer & Franca Glenzer, 2016. "Pensions, annuities, and long-term care insurance: On the impact of risk screening," Cahiers de recherche 1603, Chaire de recherche Industrielle Alliance sur les enjeux économiques des changements démographiques.
    4. Timothy C. Irwin, 2015. "Defining The Government'S Debt And Deficit," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(4), pages 711-732, September.
    5. Platanakis, Emmanouil & Sutcliffe, Charles, 2016. "Pension scheme redesign and wealth redistribution between the members and sponsor: The USS rule change in October 2011," Insurance: Mathematics and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 14-28.
    6. Wang, Yong & Mao, Connie X., 2015. "Shareholder activism of public pension funds: The political facet," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 138-152.
    7. Boubaker, Sabri & Gounopoulos, Dimitrios & Nguyen, Duc Khuong & Paltalidis, Nikos, 2015. "Assessing the effects of unconventional monetary policy on pension funds risk incentives," MPRA Paper 73398, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Aug 2016.
    8. Boubaker, Sabri & Gounopoulos, Dimitrios & Nguyen, Duc Khuong & Paltalidis, Nikos, 2017. "Assessing the effects of unconventional monetary policy and low interest rates on pension fund risk incentives," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 35-52.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Public pension funds; Investment risk; State fiscal constraints; Risk transfer; Government accounting;

    JEL classification:

    • G23 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors
    • H70 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - General
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions

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