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Who said large banks don’t experience scale economies? Evidence from a risk-return-driven cost function

  • Hughes, Joseph P.
  • Mester, Loretta J.

The Great Recession focused attention on large financial institutions and systemic risk. We investigate whether large size provides any cost advantages to the economy and, if so, whether these cost advantages are due to technological scale economies or too-big-to-fail subsidies. Estimating scale economies is made more complex by risk-taking. Better diversification resulting from larger scale generates scale economies but also incentives to take more risk. When this additional risk-taking adds to cost, it can obscure the underlying scale economies and engender misleading econometric estimates of them. Using data pre- and post-crisis, we estimate scale economies using two production models. The standard model ignores endogenous risk-taking and finds little evidence of scale economies. The model accounting for managerial risk preferences and endogenous risk-taking finds large scale economies, which are not driven by too-big-to-fail considerations. We evaluate the costs and competitive implications of breaking up the largest banks into smaller banks.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Financial Intermediation.

Volume (Year): 22 (2013)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 559-585

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jfinin:v:22:y:2013:i:4:p:559-585
DOI: 10.1016/j.jfi.2013.06.004
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622875

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  1. Joseph P. Hughes & Loretta J. Mester, 1998. "Bank Capitalization And Cost: Evidence Of Scale Economies In Risk Management And Signaling," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(2), pages 314-325, May.
  2. Joseph P. Hughes & William W. Lang & Loretta J. Mester & Choon-Geol Moon, 1997. "Recovering risky technologies using the almost ideal demand system: an application to U.S. banking," Working Papers 97-8, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  3. Hughes, Joseph P, et al, 1996. "Efficient Banking under Interstate Branching," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 28(4), pages 1045-71, November.
  4. Alan Greenspan, 2010. "La crisis," Revista de Economía Institucional, Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Economía, vol. 12(22), pages 15-60, January-J.
  5. Jagannathan Ravi & Boyd John, 2009. "Avoiding the Next Crisis," The Economists' Voice, De Gruyter, vol. 6(7), pages 1-5, July.
  6. Michel Habib & Alexander Ljungqvist, 2000. "Firm Value and Managerial Incentives: A Stochastic Frontier Approach," OFRC Working Papers Series 2000fe03, Oxford Financial Research Centre.
  7. Loretta J. Mester, 1990. "Traditional and nontraditional banking: an information-theoretic approach," Working Papers 90-3, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  8. Tufano, Peter, 1996. " Who Manages Risk? An Empirical Examination of Risk Management Practices in the Gold Mining Industry," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 51(4), pages 1097-1137, September.
  9. Joseph P. Hughes & Loretta J. Mester & Choon-Geol Moon, 2000. "Are scale economies in banking elusive or illusive? Evidence obtained by incorporating capital structure and risk-taking into models of bank production," Working Papers 00-4, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  10. Feng, Guohua & Serletis, Apostolos, 2010. "Efficiency, technical change, and returns to scale in large US banks: Panel data evidence from an output distance function satisfying theoretical regularity," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 127-138, January.
  11. Braeutigam, Ronald R. & Daughety, Andrew F., 1983. "On the estimation of returns to scale using variable cost functions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 11(1-2), pages 25-31.
  12. Elijah Brewer & Julapa Jagtiani, 2013. "How Much Did Banks Pay to Become Too-Big-To-Fail and to Become Systemically Important?," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer;Western Finance Association, vol. 43(1), pages 1-35, February.
  13. Deaton, Angus S & Muellbauer, John, 1980. "An Almost Ideal Demand System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 312-26, June.
  14. Keeley, Michael C, 1990. "Deposit Insurance, Risk, and Market Power in Banking," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(5), pages 1183-1200, December.
  15. Oecd, 2010. "Labour markets and the crisis," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 756, OECD Publishing.
  16. Allen N. Berger & Loretta J. Mester, 1997. "Inside the black box: what explains differences in the efficiencies of financial institutions?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1997-10, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  17. Joseph P. Hughes & Loretta J. Mester, 2008. "Efficiency in Banking: Theory, Practice, and Evidence," Departmental Working Papers 200801, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
  18. Allen Berger & Robert DeYoung & Mark Flannery & David Lee & Özde Öztekin, 2008. "How Do Large Banking Organizations Manage Their Capital Ratios?," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer;Western Finance Association, vol. 34(2), pages 123-149, December.
  19. Alan Greenspan, 2010. "The Crisis," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 41(1 (Spring), pages 201-261.
  20. Demsetz, Rebecca S & Strahan, Philip E, 1997. "Diversification, Size, and Risk at Bank Holding Companies," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 29(3), pages 300-313, August.
  21. David C. Wheelock & Paul W. Wilson, 2012. "Do Large Banks Have Lower Costs? New Estimates of Returns to Scale for U.S. Banks," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 44(1), pages 171-199, 02.
  22. Joseph P. Hughes & William W. Lang & Choon-Geol Moon & Michael S. Pagano, 1999. "Measuring the efficiency of capital allocation in commercial banking," Proceedings 626, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  23. Erel, Isil & Nadauld, Taylor & Stulz, Rene M., 2011. "Why Did U.S. Banks Invest in Highly-Rated Securitization Tranches?," Working Paper Series 2011-16, Ohio State University, Charles A. Dice Center for Research in Financial Economics.
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