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Household portfolios in the United States

  • Carol Bertaut
  • Martha Starr-McCluer

This paper investigates the composition of households' assets and liabilities in the United States. Using aggregate and survey data, we document major trends in household portfolios in the past 15 years. We show that, despite the broad array of financial products available, the portfolio of the typical household remains fairly simple and safe, consisting of a checking account, savings account, and tax-deferred retirement account; in 1998, less than half of all households owned some form of stock. We use pooled data from the Survey of Consumer Finances to investigate determinants of portfolio choice, finding significant effects of age, wealth, income risk, and entry/information costs.

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Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2000-26.

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Date of creation: 2000
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2000-26
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  7. Hubbard, R Glenn & Skinner, Jonathan & Zeldes, Stephen P, 1995. "Precautionary Saving and Social Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(2), pages 360-99, April.
  8. Patrick J. Bayer & B. Douglas Bernheim & John Karl Scholz, 1996. "The Effects of Financial Education in the Workplace: Evidence from a Survey of Employers," Working Papers 96011, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  9. King, Mervyn A. & Leape, Jonathan I., 1998. "Wealth and portfolio composition: Theory and evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 155-193, June.
  10. Marjorie Flavin & Takashi Yamashita, 1998. "Owner-Occupied Housing and the Composition of the Household Portfolio Over the Life-Cycle," NBER Working Papers 6389, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Bodie, Zvi & Merton, Robert C. & Samuelson, William F., 1992. "Labor supply flexibility and portfolio choice in a life cycle model," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 16(3-4), pages 427-449.
  12. James M. Poterba & Andrew A. Samwick, 1997. "Household Portfolio Allocation Over the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 6185, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Daniel L. McFadden, 1994. "Demographics, the Housing Market, and the Welfare of the Elderly," NBER Chapters, in: Studies in the Economics of Aging, pages 225-288 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Poterba, J.M. & Samwick, A.A., 1996. "Stock Ownership Patterns, Stock Market Fluctuations, and Consumption," Working papers 96-2, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  15. Helen F. Ladd, 1998. "Evidence on Discrimination in Mortgage Lending," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(2), pages 41-62, Spring.
  16. N. Gregory Mankiw & David N. Weil, 1988. "The Baby Boom, The Baby Bust, and the Housing Market," NBER Working Papers 2794, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Mervyn A. King & Jonathan I. Leape, 1987. "Asset Accumulation, Information, and the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 2392, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Ausubel, Lawrence M, 1991. "The Failure of Competition in the Credit Card Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 50-81, March.
  19. B. Douglas Bernheim & Daniel M. Garrett, 1996. "The Determinants and Consequences of Financial Education in the Workplace: Evidence from a Survey of Households," Working Papers 96007, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  20. Samuelson, Paul A, 1969. "Lifetime Portfolio Selection by Dynamic Stochastic Programming," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 51(3), pages 239-46, August.
  21. Scott Weisbenner, 1999. "Do pension plans with participant investment choice teach households to hold more equity?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1999-61, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  22. Louis-David L. Dicks-Mireaux & Mervyn A. King, 1983. "Portfolio Composition and Pension Wealth: An Econometric Study," NBER Chapters, in: Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System, pages 399-440 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Cox, Donald & Jappelli, Tullio, 1993. "The Effect of Borrowing Constraints on Consumer Liabilities," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 25(2), pages 197-213, May.
  24. Rochelle L. Antoniewicz, 1996. "A comparison of the household sector from the Flow of Funds Accounts and the Survey of Consumer Finances," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 96-26, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  25. Flavin, Marjorie & Yamashita, Takashi, 1998. "Owner-Occupied Housing and the Composition of the Household Portfolio over the Life Cycle," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt89x293v9, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  26. Haliassos, Michael & Bertaut, Carol C, 1995. "Why Do So Few Hold Stocks?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 105(432), pages 1110-29, September.
  27. Joel Slemrod & Nikki Sorum, 1985. "The Compliance Cost of the U.S. Individual Income Tax System," NBER Working Papers 1401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  28. James M. Poterba, 1998. "Population Age Structure and Asset Returns: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 6774, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  29. Paxson, Christina, 1990. "Borrowing Constraints and Portfolio Choice," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(2), pages 535-43, May.
  30. Jianakoplos, Nancy Ammon & Bernasek, Alexandra, 1998. "Are Women More Risk Averse?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(4), pages 620-30, October.
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