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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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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    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.
    2. Yosef Bonaparte & Russell Cooper, 2010. "Costly Portfolio Adjustment," Economics Working Papers ECO2010/19, European University Institute.
    3. Charles A. Holt & Susan K. Laury, 2002. "Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1644-1655, December.
    4. Mark J. Kamstra & Lisa A. Kramer & Maurice D. Levi, 2003. "Winter Blues: A SAD Stock Market Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 324-343, March.
    5. Constantinides, George M, 1990. "Habit Formation: A Resolution of the Equity Premium Puzzle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(3), pages 519-543, June.
    6. Ulrike Malmendier & Stefan Nagel, 2011. "Depression Babies: Do Macroeconomic Experiences Affect Risk Taking?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(1), pages 373-416.
    7. Knutson, Brian & Wimmer, G. Elliott & Kuhnen, Camelia & Winkielman, Piotr, 2008. "Nucleus accumbens activation mediates the influence of reward cues on financial risk-taking," MPRA Paper 8013, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Luigi Guiso & Tullio Jappelli, 2008. "Financial Literacy and Portfolio Diversification," EIEF Working Papers Series 0812, Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF), revised Oct 2008.
    9. George Loewenstein, 2000. "Emotions in Economic Theory and Economic Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 426-432, May.
    10. Nicholas Barberis & Ming Huang & Tano Santos, 2001. "Prospect Theory and Asset Prices," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 1-53.
    11. Heaton, John & Lucas, Deborah, 2000. "Portfolio Choice in the Presence of Background Risk," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(460), pages 1-26, January.
    12. Rachel Croson & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Gender Differences in Preferences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 448-474, June.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates

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