IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Risk Aversion, Wealth, and Background Risk

Listed author(s):
  • Luigi Guiso
  • Monica Paiella

We use household survey data to construct a direct measure of absolute risk aversion based on the maximum price a consumer is willing to pay for a risky security. We relate this measure to consumer's endowments and attributes and to measures of background risk and liquidity constraints. We find that risk aversion is a decreasing function of the endowment-thus rejecting CARA preferences. We estimate the elasticity of risk aversion to consumption at about 0.7, below the unitary value predicted by CRRA utility. We also find that households' attributes are of little help in predicting their degree of risk aversion, which is characterized by massive unexplained heterogeneity. We show that the consumer's environment affects risk aversion. Individuals who are more likely to face income uncertainty or to become liquidity constrained exhibit a higher degree of absolute risk aversion, consistent with recent theories of attitudes toward risk in the presence of uninsurable risks. (JEL: D1, D8) (c) 2008 by the European Economic Association.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1542-4774/issues
File Function: link to full text
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Journal of the European Economic Association.

Volume (Year): 6 (2008)
Issue (Month): 6 (December)
Pages: 1109-1150

as
in new window

Handle: RePEc:tpr:jeurec:v:6:y:2008:i:6:p:1109-1150
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/jeea

Order Information: Web: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/jeea

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as
in new window


  1. Luigi Guiso & Tullio Jappelli, 2006. "Information Acquisition and Portfolio Performance," CeRP Working Papers 52, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
  2. James J. Heckman, 1976. "The Common Structure of Statistical Models of Truncation, Sample Selection and Limited Dependent Variables and a Simple Estimator for Such Models," NBER Chapters,in: Annals of Economic and Social Measurement, Volume 5, number 4, pages 475-492 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Miles S. Kimball, 1991. "Precautionary Motives for Holding Assets," NBER Working Papers 3586, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Luigi Guiso & Monica Paiella, 2008. "Risk Aversion, Wealth, and Background Risk," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(6), pages 1109-1150, December.
  5. Guiso, Luigi & Jappelli, Tullio & Terlizzese, Daniele, 1996. "Income Risk, Borrowing Constraints, and Portfolio Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 158-172, March.
  6. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1992. "Advances in Prospect Theory: Cumulative Representation of Uncertainty," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 297-323, October.
  7. Weil, Philippe, 1992. "Equilibrium asset prices with undiversifiable labor income risk," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 16(3-4), pages 769-790.
  8. Matthew Rabin, 2000. "Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1281-1292, September.
  9. Carroll, Christopher D & Kimball, Miles S, 1996. "On the Concavity of the Consumption Function," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(4), pages 981-992, July.
  10. Guiso, Luigi & Jappelli, Tullio, 2000. "Household Portfolios in Italy," CEPR Discussion Papers 2549, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. Guiso, Luigi & Paiella, Monica, 2004. "The Role of Risk Aversion in Predicting Individual Behaviours," CEPR Discussion Papers 4591, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Pratt, John W & Zeckhauser, Richard J, 1987. "Proper Risk Aversion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(1), pages 143-154, January.
  13. Torrini, Roberto, 2005. "Cross-country differences in self-employment rates: the role of institutions," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(5), pages 661-683, October.
  14. 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.
  15. Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2004. "The Role of Social Capital in Financial Development," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 526-556, June.
  16. Christian Gollier, 2001. "Wealth Inequality and Asset Pricing," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(1), pages 181-203.
  17. Hennessy, David A. & Lapan, Harvey E., 2006. "On the nature of certainty equivalent functionals," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 1-10, December.
  18. Luigi Guiso & Tullio Jappelli, 1998. "Background Uncertainty and the Demand for Insurance Against Insurable Risks," The Geneva Risk and Insurance Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Association for the Study of Insurance Economics (The Geneva Association), vol. 23(1), pages 7-27, June.
  19. Joël Peress, 2004. "Wealth, Information Acquisition, and Portfolio Choice," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 17(3), pages 879-914.
  20. John Heaton & Deborah Lucas, 2000. "Portfolio Choice and Asset Prices: The Importance of Entrepreneurial Risk," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(3), pages 1163-1198, June.
  21. Gollier, Christian & Zeckhauser, Richard J, 2002. "Horizon Length and Portfolio Risk," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 24(3), pages 195-212, May.
  22. Cascio, Elizabeth U., 2004. "Schooling and the AFQT: Evidence from School Entry Laws," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt8zm571cw, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
  23. Breeden, Douglas T., 1979. "An intertemporal asset pricing model with stochastic consumption and investment opportunities," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 265-296, September.
  24. Eeckhoudt, Louis & Gollier, Christian & Schlesinger, Harris, 1996. "Changes in Background Risk and Risk-Taking Behavior," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(3), pages 683-689, May.
  25. Kimball, Miles S, 1993. "Standard Risk Aversion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(3), pages 589-611, May.
  26. Christopher D. Carroll, 2000. "STATA code for Portfolios of the Rich," QM&RBC Codes 41, Quantitative Macroeconomics & Real Business Cycles.
  27. Shane Frederick, 2005. "Cognitive Reflection and Decision Making," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(4), pages 25-42, Fall.
  28. Renate Schubert, 1999. "Financial Decision-Making: Are Women Really More Risk-Averse?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 381-385, May.
  29. Robert B. Barsky & F. Thomas Juster & Miles S. Kimball & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1997. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 537-579.
  30. Daniel J. Benjamin & Sebastian A. Brown & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2013. "Who Is ‘Behavioral’? Cognitive Ability And Anomalous Preferences," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(6), pages 1231-1255, December.
  31. Kihlstrom, Richard E & Romer, David & Williams, Steve, 1981. "Risk Aversion with Random Initial Wealth," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 911-920, June.
  32. Guiso, Luigi & Jappelli, Tullio & Pistaferri, Luigi, 2002. "An Empirical Analysis of Earnings and Employment Risk," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 20(2), pages 241-253, April.
  33. Heaton, John & Lucas, Deborah, 2000. "Portfolio Choice in the Presence of Background Risk," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(460), pages 1-26, January.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:tpr:jeurec:v:6:y:2008:i:6:p:1109-1150. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Kristin Waites)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.