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Risk Aversion, Wealth and Background Risk

  • 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 to buy a risky security. We relate this measure to consumers' endowment and attributes and to measures of background risk and liquidity constraints. We find that risk aversion is a decreasing function of endowment - thus rejecting CARA preferences - but the elasticity to consumption is far below the unitary value predicted by the 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. However, the consumers' 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 towards risk in the presence of uninsurable risks.

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Paper provided by Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area in its series Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) with number 483.

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Date of creation: Sep 2003
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Handle: RePEc:bdi:wptemi:td_483_03
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  1. 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.
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  13. 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.
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  15. 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.
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  23. Guiso, Luigi & Sapienza, Paola & Zingales, Luigi, 2000. "The Role of Social Capital In Financial Development," CEPR Discussion Papers 2383, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  25. Daniel J. Benjamin & Sebastian A. Brown & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2006. "Who is “Behavioral”? Cognitive Ability and Anomalous Preferences," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000001334, David K. Levine.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
  28. Shane Frederick, 2005. "Cognitive Reflection and Decision Making," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(4), pages 25-42, Fall.
  29. 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.
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