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Differences in Portfolios across Countries: Economic Environment versus Household Characteristics

  • Michael Haliassos
  • Dimitris Christelis
  • Dimitris Georgarakos

    (Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA))

We document and study international differences in both ownership and holdings of stocks, private businesses, homes, and mortgages among households aged fifty or more in thirteen countries, using new and comparable survey data. We employ counterfactual techniques to decompose observed differences across the Atlantic, within the US, and within Europe into those arising from differences in population characteristics and differences in economic environments. We then correlate the latter differences to country-level indicators. Ownership across the range of the assets considered tends to be more widespread among US households. We document that shortly prior to the current crisis, US households tended to invest larger amounts in stocks and smaller ones in homes, and to have larger mortgages in older age, even controlling for characteristics. This is consistent with the high prevalence of negative equity associated with the current crisis. More generally, we find that differences in household characteristics often play a small role, while differences in economic environments tend to explain most of the observed differences in ownership rates and in amounts held. The latter differences are much more pronounced among European countries than among US regions, suggesting further potential for harmonization of policies and institutions.

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Paper provided by Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy in its series MEA discussion paper series with number 10204.

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Date of creation: 08 Sep 2010
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Handle: RePEc:mea:meawpa:10204
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  1. Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silane & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1996. "Law and Finance," NBER Working Papers 5661, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Campbell, John, 2006. "Household Finance," Scholarly Articles 3157877, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Mervyn A. King & Jonathan I. Leape, 1984. "Wealth and Portfolio Composition: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 1468, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Christelis, Dimitris & Jappelli, Tullio & Padula, Mario, 2006. "Cognitive Abilities and Portfolio Choice," CEPR Discussion Papers 5735, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Michael Haliassos & Dimitris Georgarakos & Yiannis Bilias, 2006. "Equity Culture and the Distribution of Wealth," Computing in Economics and Finance 2006 27, Society for Computational Economics.
  6. Wiji Arulampalam & Alison Booth & Mark L. Bryan, 2006. "Is There a Glass Ceiling over Europe? Exploring the Gender Pay Gap across the Wages Distribution," CEPR Discussion Papers 510, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  7. Campbell, John & Cocco, Joao, 2003. "Household Risk Management and Optimal Mortgage Choice," Scholarly Articles 3157876, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. Agar Brugiavini & Tullio Jappelli & Guglielmo Weber, 2002. "The Survey on Health, Aging and Wealth," CSEF Working Papers 86, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  9. Michael Haliassos, Alexander Michaelides, 2000. "Portfolio Choice And Liquidity Constraints," Computing in Economics and Finance 2000 297, Society for Computational Economics.
  10. Bilias, Yannis & Georgarakos, Dimitris & Haliassos, Michael, 2006. "Portfolio inertia and stock market fluctuations," CFS Working Paper Series 2006/14, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  11. Alexander Michaelides & Francisco J. Gomes, 2005. "Optimal life cycle asset allocation : understanding the empirical evidence," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 193, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  12. Campbell, John Y. & Viceira, Luis M., 2002. "Strategic Asset Allocation: Portfolio Choice for Long-Term Investors," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198296942, March.
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