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Portfolios of the Rich


  • Christopher D Carroll


Recent research has shown that 'rich' households save at much higher rates than others (see Carroll (2000); Dynan Skinner and Zeldes (1996); Gentry and Hubbard (1998); Huggett (1996); Quadrini (1999)) This paper documents another large difference between the rich and the rest of the population: portfolios of the rich are heavily skewed toward risky assets particularly investments in their own privately held businesses The paper explores three possible explanations of these facts First perhaps there is exogenous variation in risk tolerance so that highly risk tolerant households engage in high-risk high-return activities and the risk-lovers who are lucky constitute the rich A second possibility is that capital market imperfections a la Gentry and Hubbard (1998) and Quadrini (1999) require entrepreneurial activities to be largely self-financed and these same imperfections imply that entreprenurial investment will yield high average returns The final possibility is that wealth enters households' utility functions directly as a luxury good as in Carroll (2000) (one interpretation is that this reflects the utility of anticipated bequests) implying that risk aversion declines as wealth rises The paper concludes that the overall pattern of facts suggests both Carroll-style utility and Gentry/Hubbard-Quadrini style capital market imperfections are important

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher D Carroll, 2000. "Portfolios of the Rich," Economics Working Paper Archive 430, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:jhu:papers:430

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mervyn A. King & Jonathan I. Leape, 1987. "Asset Accumulation, Information, and the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 2392, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Daniel Kahneman & Peter P. Wakker & Rakesh Sarin, 1997. "Back to Bentham? Explorations of Experienced Utility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 375-406.
    3. Robert B. Barsky & Miles S. Kimball & F. Thomas Juster & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1995. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Working Papers 5213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Vincenzo Quadrini, 2000. "Entrepreneurship, Saving and Social Mobility," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 3(1), pages 1-40, January.
    5. Slemrod,Joel, 1997. "Tax Progressivity and Income Inequality," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521587761, March.
    6. Barro, Robert J, 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1095-1117, Nov.-Dec..
    7. Oswald, Andrew J, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1815-1831, November.
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    11. Eric M. Engen & William G. Gale & Cori R. Uccello, 1999. "The Adequacy of Retirement Saving," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 30(2), pages 65-188.
    12. Douglas Holtz-Eakin & David Joulfaian & Harvey S. Rosen, 1994. "Entrepreneurial Decisions and Liquidity Constraints," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 25(2), pages 334-347, Summer.
    13. Christopher D. Carroll, 1997. "Buffer-Stock Saving and the Life Cycle/Permanent Income Hypothesis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 1-55.
    14. Hubbard, R. Glenn & Skinner, Jonathan & Zeldes, Stephen P., 1994. "The importance of precautionary motives in explaining individual and aggregate saving," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 59-125, June.
    15. James M. Poterba, 2001. "Taxation and Portfolio Structure: Issues and Implications," NBER Working Papers 8223, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Zou, Heng-fu, 1994. "'The spirit of capitalism' and long-run growth," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 279-293, July.
    17. Huggett, Mark, 1996. "Wealth distribution in life-cycle economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 469-494, December.
    18. Bakshi, Gurdip S & Chen, Zhiwu, 1996. "The Spirit of Capitalism and Stock-Market Prices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 133-157, March.
    19. Karen E. Dynan & Jonathan Skinner & Stephen P. Zeldes, 2004. "Do the Rich Save More?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(2), pages 397-444, April.
    20. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1997. "A Case for Happiness, Cardinalism, and Interpersonal Comparability," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1848-1858, November.
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    JEL classification:

    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution


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