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Are Risk Attitudes Fixed Factors or Fleeting Feelings?


  • Cho, In Soo


We investigate the stability of measured risk attitudes over time, using a 13-year longitudinal sample of individuals in the NLSY79. We find that an individual's risk aversion changes systematically in response to personal economic circumstances. Risk aversion increases with lengthening spells of employment and time out of labor force, and decreases with lengthening unemployment spells. However, the most important result is that the majority of the variation in risk aversion is due to changes in measured individual tastes over time and not to variation across individuals. These findings that measured risk preferences are endogenous and subject to substantial measurement errors suggest caution in interpreting coefficients in models relying on contemporaneous, one-time measures of risk preferences.

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  • Cho, In Soo, 2013. "Are Risk Attitudes Fixed Factors or Fleeting Feelings?," Staff General Research Papers Archive 35751, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:35751

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hans P. Binswanger, 1980. "Attitudes Toward Risk: Experimental Measurement in Rural India," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 62(3), pages 395-407.
    2. Lisa Anderson & Jennifer Mellor, 2009. "Are risk preferences stable? Comparing an experimental measure with a validated survey-based measure," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 39(2), pages 137-160, October.
    3. Marc F. Bellemare & Zachary S. Brown, 2010. "On the (Mis)Use of Wealth as a Proxy for Risk Aversion," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 92(1), pages 273-282.
    4. Donkers, Bas & Melenberg, Bertrand & Van Soest, Arthur, 2001. "Estimating Risk Attitudes Using Lotteries: A Large Sample Approach," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 22(2), pages 165-195, March.
    5. 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.
    6. Love, Ross O. & Robison, Lindon J., 1984. "An Empirical Analysis of the Intertemporal Stability of Risk Preference," Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 16(01), pages 159-166, July.
    7. Hartog, Joop & Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada & Jonker, Nicole, 2002. "Linking Measured Risk Aversion to Individual Characteristics," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(1), pages 3-26.
    8. Feinberg, Robert M, 1977. "Risk Aversion, Risk, and the Duration of Unemployment," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 59(3), pages 264-271, August.
    9. Levon Barseghyan & Jeffrey Prince & Joshua C. Teitelbaum, 2011. "Are Risk Preferences Stable across Contexts? Evidence from Insurance Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(2), pages 591-631, April.
    10. Robert B. Barsky & F. Thomas Juster & Miles S. Kimball & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1997. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 537-579.
    11. Daniel J. Benjamin & Sebastian A. Brown & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2013. "Who Is ‘Behavioral’? Cognitive Ability And Anomalous Preferences," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(6), pages 1231-1255, December.
    12. Isaac, R Mark & James, Duncan, 2000. "Just Who Are You Calling Risk Averse?," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 20(2), pages 177-187, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Franziska Tausch & Maria Zumbuehl, 2016. "Stability of Risk Attitudes and Media Coverage of Economic News," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 824, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    2. Andrea Caragliu & Chiara F. Del Bo & Karima Kourtit & Peter Nijkamp, 2016. "The winner takes it all: forward-looking cities and urban innovation," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 56(3), pages 617-645, May.
    3. Franziska Tausch & Maria Zumbuehl, 2016. "Stability of risk attitudes and media coverage of economic news," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2016_02, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.

    More about this item


    risk aversion; stability; variance decomposition; within; measurement error; between; fixed effects;

    JEL classification:

    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty

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