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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 for a risky security. We relate this measure to consumers' endowments and attributes and to measures of background risk and liquidity constraints. We find that risk aversion is a decreasing function of the endowment. thus rejecting CARA preferences. We estimate the elasticity of risk aversion to consumption at about 0.7, below the unitary value predicted by 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. We show that the consumer's 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 toward risk in the presence of uninsurable risks.

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Paper provided by European University Institute in its series Economics Working Papers with number ECO2007/47.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:eui:euiwps:eco2007/47
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  1. Rabin, Matthew, 2000. "Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt731230f8, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
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  7. Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2000. "The Role of Social Capital in Financial Development," CRSP working papers 511, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
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  18. 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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  24. Kihlstrom, Richard E & Romer, David & Williams, Steve, 1981. "Risk Aversion with Random Initial Wealth," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 911-20, June.
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  26. Gollier, Christian, 2001. "Wealth Inequality and Asset Pricing," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(1), pages 181-203, January.
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  29. Monica Paiella & Luigi Guiso, 2004. "The Role of Risk Aversion in Predicting Individual Behaviour," Econometric Society 2004 Latin American Meetings 222, Econometric Society.
  30. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1992. " Advances in Prospect Theory: Cumulative Representation of Uncertainty," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 297-323, October.
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