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The Risk-Return Paradox for Strategic Management: Disentangling True and Spurious Effects

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  • Henkel, Joachim

Abstract

The concept of risk is central to strategy research and practice. Yet, the expected positive association between risk and return, familiar from financial markets, is elusive. Measuring risk as the variance of a series of accounting-based returns, Bowman obtained the puzzling result of a negative association between risk and mean return. This finding, known as the Bowman paradox, has spawned a remarkable number of publications, and various explanations have been suggested. The present paper contributes to this literature by showing that skewness of individual firms’ return distributions has a considerable spurious effect on the mean-variance relationship. I devise a method to disentangle true and spurious effects, illustrate it using simulations, and apply it to empirical data. It turns out that the size of the spurious effect is such that, on average, it explains the larger part of the observed negative relationship. My results might thus help to reconcile mean-variance approaches to risk-return analysis with other, ex-ante, approaches. In concluding, I show that the analysis of skewness is linked to all three streams of literature devoted to explaining the Bowman paradox.

Suggested Citation

  • Henkel, Joachim, 2007. "The Risk-Return Paradox for Strategic Management: Disentangling True and Spurious Effects," CEPR Discussion Papers 6538, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6538
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gooding, Richard Z. & Goel, Sanjay & Wiseman, Robert M., 1996. "Fixed versus variable reference points in the risk-return relationship," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 331-350, March.
    2. Deephouse, David L. & Wiseman, Robert M., 2000. "Comparing alternative explanations for accounting risk-return relations," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 42(4), pages 463-482, August.
    3. Timothy W. Ruefli, 1990. "Mean-Variance Approaches to Risk-Return Relationships in Strategy: Paradox Lost," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 36(3), pages 368-380, March.
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    5. Fiegenbaum, Avi, 1990. "Prospect theory and the risk-return association : An empirical examination in 85 industries," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 187-203, October.
    6. Nickel, Manuel Núñez & Rodriguez, Manuel Cano, 2002. "A review of research on the negative accounting relationship between risk and return: Bowman's paradox," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 1-18, February.
    7. Benjamin M. Oviatt & Alan D. Bauerschmidt, 1991. "Business Risk and Return: A Test of Simultaneous Relationships," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 37(11), pages 1405-1423, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Astrachan, Joseph H., 2010. "Strategy in family business: Toward a multidimensional research agenda," Journal of Family Business Strategy, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 6-14, March.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    mean-variance; risk; risk-return paradox; skewness;

    JEL classification:

    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • G39 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Other
    • M29 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Economics - - - Other

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