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Bank diversification: laws and fallacies of large numbers

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  • Joseph G. Haubrich

Abstract

Conventional wisdom on bank diversification confuses risk with failure. This article clarifies the distinction and shows how increasing bank size may increase bank risk, even though it lessens the probability of failure and lowers the expected loss. The key result is an application of Samuelson's "fallacy of large numbers."

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph G. Haubrich, 1998. "Bank diversification: laws and fallacies of large numbers," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, issue Q II, pages 2-9.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedcer:y:1998:i:qii:p:2-9:n:v.34no.2
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Pennacchi, George G, 1987. "A Reexamination of the Over- (or Under-) Pricing of Deposit Insurance," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 19(3), pages 340-360, August.
    2. Kimball, Miles S, 1993. "Standard Risk Aversion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(3), pages 589-611, May.
    3. Haubrich, Joseph G., 1990. "Nonmonetary effects of financial crises : Lessons from the great depression in Canada," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 223-252, March.
    4. Kihlstrom, Richard E & Romer, David & Williams, Steve, 1981. "Risk Aversion with Random Initial Wealth," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 911-920, June.
    5. Boyd, John H. & Runkle, David E., 1993. "Size and performance of banking firms : Testing the predictions of theory," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 47-67, February.
    6. Pratt, John W & Zeckhauser, Richard J, 1987. "Proper Risk Aversion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(1), pages 143-154, January.
    7. Douglas W. Diamond, 1984. "Financial Intermediation and Delegated Monitoring," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(3), pages 393-414.
    8. Thomson, James B, 1987. "The Use of Market Information in Pricing Deposit Insurance," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 19(4), pages 528-537, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sergio Sousa, 2010. "Small-scale changes in wealth and attitudes toward risk," Discussion Papers 2010-11, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    2. Sergio Sousa, 2010. "Small-scale changes in wealth and attitudes toward risk," Discussion Papers 2010-11, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    3. Rómulo Chumacero E. & Patricia S. Langoni, 2001. "Risk, Size and Concentration in the Chilean Banking System," Journal Economía Chilena (The Chilean Economy), Central Bank of Chile, vol. 4(1), pages 25-34, April.
    4. Chu, Kam Hon, 2015. "Bank consolidation and stability: The Canadian experience, 1867–1935," Journal of Financial Stability, Elsevier, vol. 21(C), pages 46-60.
    5. James W. Kolari & Charles C. Ou & G. Hwan Shin, 2006. "Assessing the Profitability and Riskiness of Small Business Lenders in the Banking Industry," Journal of Entrepreneurial Finance, Pepperdine University, Graziadio School of Business and Management, vol. 11(2), pages 1-26, Summer.
    6. Fields, L. Paige & Fraser, Donald R. & Kolari, James W., 2007. "Bidder returns in bancassurance mergers: Is there evidence of synergy?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 31(12), pages 3646-3662, December.
    7. repec:eee:spacre:v:15:y:2012:i:1:p:143-178 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Gianni De Nicolo & Mary G Zephirin & Philip F. Bartholomew & Jahanara Zaman, 2003. "Bank Consolidation, Internationalization, and Conglomeration; Trends and Implications for Financial Risk," IMF Working Papers 03/158, International Monetary Fund.

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