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Loss aversion and the zero-earnings discontinuity

Author

Listed:
  • Leonidas Enrique de la Rosa

    () (Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University)

  • Nikolaj Kirkeby Niebuhr

    (Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University)

Abstract

Prior literature suggests that the zero-earnings discontinuity is caused by earnings management. This makes sense if investors are naïve. We test for the possibility of investor naïveté and find that they are aware of firms performing earnings management around zero reported earnings and that there is no ob-vious gain of reaching zero reported earnings. We extend a signaling model to include loss-averse investors and we find that earnings management is not only rational, but in equilibrium, it is not possible for investors to deduce the correct value of firms’ earnings around the discontinuity. Assuming our model gen-erates the observed data, a loss-aversion coefficient of 1.2595 matches the discontinuity below zero reported earnings observed in the data simulated from the model and in the actual data. This loss-aversion coefficient is consistent with Tversky and Kahneman (1992), who find that losses are weighted roughly twice as heavily as gains.

Suggested Citation

  • Leonidas Enrique de la Rosa & Nikolaj Kirkeby Niebuhr, 2019. "Loss aversion and the zero-earnings discontinuity," Economics Working Papers 2019-09, Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University.
  • Handle: RePEc:aah:aarhec:2019-09
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    File URL: ftp://ftp.econ.au.dk/afn/wp/19/wp19_09.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Discontinuity; Loss Aversion; Reporting; Signaling;

    JEL classification:

    • C70 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - General
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • G41 - Financial Economics - - Behavioral Finance - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making in Financial Markets
    • M41 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Accounting - - - Accounting

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