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Time Varying Risk Aversion

Author

Listed:
  • Luigi Guiso

    (EIEF and CEPR)

  • Paola Sapienza

    (Northwestern University, NBER and CEPR)

  • Luigi Zingales

    (University of Chicago, NBER and CEPR)

Abstract

We use a repeated survey of a large sample of clients of an Italian bank to measure possible changes in investors’ risk aversion following the 2008 financial crisis. We find that both a qualitative and a quantitative measure of risk aversion increase substantially after the crisis. These changes are correlated with changes in portfolio choices, but do not seem to be correlated with “standard” factors that affect risk aversion, such as wealth, consumption habit, and background risk. This opens the possibility that psychological factors might be driving it. To test whether a scary experience (as the financial crisis) can trigger large increases in risk aversion, we conduct a lab experiment. We find that indeed students who watched a scary video have a certainty equivalent that is 27% lower than the ones who did not. Following a sharp drop in stock prices,a fear model predicts that individuals should sell stocks, while the habit model has the opposite implications; people should actively buy stocks to bring the risky assets to the new optimal level. We show that after the drop in stock prices in 2008 individuals rebalanced their portfolio in a way consistent to a fear model.

Suggested Citation

  • Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2013. "Time Varying Risk Aversion," EIEF Working Papers Series 1322, Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF), revised Sep 2013.
  • Handle: RePEc:eie:wpaper:1322
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G41 - Financial Economics - - Behavioral Finance - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making in Financial Markets
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making

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