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Who Becomes a Stockholder? Expectations, SUbjective Uncertainty, and Asset Allocation


  • Gábor Kézdi

    (University of Michigan)

  • Robert J. Willis

    (University of Michigan)


We develop a model of portfolio selection with subjective uncertainty and learning in order to explain why some people hold stocks while others don’t. We model heterogeneity in information directly, which is an alternative to the existing explanations that emphasized heterogeneity in transaction costs of investment. We plan to calibrate the model to survey data (when available) on people’s perception about the distribution of stock market returns. Our approach also leads to a model of learning with new implications such as zero optimal risky assets, or ex post correlation of uncorrelated labor income and optimal portfolio composition. It also points to two factors in probabilistic thinking that should have a major impact on stock ownership. These are the level and the precision of expectations. We construct proxy measures for the two parameters from the 1992-2000 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). We use a large battery of the subjective probability questions administered in each wave of HRS to construct an overall “index of optimism” (the correlated factor between all subjective probabilities) and “index of precision” (the fraction of nonfocal probability answers, following Lillard and Willis, 2001). We also construct measures for how people forecast the weather, their cognitive capacity, wealth, and basic demographics. Our results indicate that stock ownership and the probability of becoming a stockholder are strongly positively correlated with the indices of the level and precision of expectations. Interpretation of the former is quite challenging and further research is needed to understand its full content.

Suggested Citation

  • Gábor Kézdi & Robert J. Willis, 2003. "Who Becomes a Stockholder? Expectations, SUbjective Uncertainty, and Asset Allocation," Working Papers wp039, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp039

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    1. Mehra, Rajnish & Prescott, Edward C., 1985. "The equity premium: A puzzle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 145-161, March.
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    7. Shleifer, Andrei, 2000. "Inefficient Markets: An Introduction to Behavioral Finance," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198292272.
    8. F. Thomas Juster & Richard Suzman, 1995. " An Overview of the Health and Retirement Study," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30, pages s7-s56.
    9. 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.
    10. Campbell, John Y. & Viceira, Luis M., 2002. "Strategic Asset Allocation: Portfolio Choice for Long-Term Investors," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198296942.
    11. Merton, Robert C, 1969. "Lifetime Portfolio Selection under Uncertainty: The Continuous-Time Case," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 51(3), pages 247-257, August.
    12. Lee Lillard & Robert J. Willis, 2001. "Cognition and Wealth: The Importance of Probabilistic Thinking," Working Papers wp007, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    13. Willis, Robert J., 1999. "Theory confronts data: how the HRS is shaped by the economics of aging and how the economics of aging will be shaped by the HRS," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(2), pages 119-145, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Aydogan Ulker, 2009. "Wealth Holdings and Portfolio Allocation of the Elderly: The Role of Marital History," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 30(1), pages 90-108, March.
    2. Hanming Fang & Michael P. Keane & Dan Silverman, 2008. "Sources of Advantageous Selection: Evidence from the Medigap Insurance Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(2), pages 303-350, April.
    3. Brice Corgnet & Mark DeSantis & David Porter, 2015. "What Makes a Good Trader? On the Role of Quant Skills, Behavioral Biases and Intuition on Trader Performance," Working Papers 15-17, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    4. Adeline Delavande & Michael Perry & Robert Willis, 2006. "Probabilistic Thinking and Early Social Security Claiming," Working Papers wp129, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    5. Almenberg, Johan & Dreber, Anna, 2015. "Gender, stock market participation and financial literacy," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 140-142.
    6. repec:wsi:qjfxxx:v:02:y:2012:i:04:n:s2010139212500206 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Kristin J. Kleinjans & Jinkook Lee, 2006. "The link between individual expectations and savings: Do nursing home expectations matter?," Economics Working Papers 2006-05, Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University.
    8. Yannis Bilias & Michael Haliassos, 2004. "The Distribution of Gains from Access to Stocks," CSEF Working Papers 125, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
    9. Aydogan Ulker, 2004. "Wealth Holdings and Portfolio Allocation of Older Couples: The Role of Spouses’ Marital History," CEPR Discussion Papers 477, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
    10. Laura Kawano, 2014. "The Dividend Clientele Hypothesis: Evidence from the 2003 Tax Act," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 6(1), pages 114-136, February.
    11. Chapman, Kenneth & Dow, James Jr. & Hariharan, Govind, 2005. "Changes in stockholding behavior: Evidence from household survey data," Finance Research Letters, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 89-96, June.

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