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Explaining the Favorite-Long Shot Bias: Is it Risk-Love or Misperceptions?

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  • Erik Snowberg
  • Justin Wolfers

Abstract

The favorite-long shot bias describes the long-standing empirical regularity that betting odds provide biased estimates of the probability of a horse winning: long shots are overbet whereas favorites are underbet. Neoclassical explanations of this phenomenon focus on rational gamblers who overbet long shots because of risk-love. The competing behavioral explanations emphasize the role of misperceptions of probabilities. We provide novel empirical tests that can discriminate between these competing theories by assessing whether the models that explain gamblers' choices in one part of their choice set (betting to win) can also rationalize decisions over a wider choice set, including compound bets in the exacta, quinella, or trifecta pools. Using a new, large-scale data set ideally suited to implement these tests, we find evidence in favor of the view that misperceptions of probability drive the favorite-long shot bias, as suggested by prospect theory. (c) 2010 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

Suggested Citation

  • Erik Snowberg & Justin Wolfers, 2010. "Explaining the Favorite-Long Shot Bias: Is it Risk-Love or Misperceptions?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(4), pages 723-746, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:118:y:2010:i:4:p:723-746
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D49 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Other
    • G13 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Contingent Pricing; Futures Pricing
    • G14 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Information and Market Efficiency; Event Studies; Insider Trading
    • L83 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Sports; Gambling; Restaurants; Recreation; Tourism

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