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Why Do Companies Pay Dividends?

  • Martin Feldstein
  • Jerry Green

This paper presents a simple model of market equilibrium to explain why firms that maximize the value of their shares pay dividends even though the funds could instead be retained and subsequently distributed to shareholders in a way that would allow them to be taxed more favorably as capital gains. The two principal ingredients of our explanation are:(1) the conflicting preferences of shareholders in different tax brackets and (2) the shareholders' desire for portfolio diversification, we show that companies will pay a positive fraction of earnings in dividends. We also provide some comparative static analysis of dividend behavior with respect to tax parameters and to the conditions determining the riskiness of the securities.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w0413.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 0413.

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Date of creation: Dec 1979
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Publication status: published as Feldstein, Martin and Green, Jerry. "Why Do Companies Pay Dividends?" The American Economic Review, Vol. 73, No. 1 (March 1983), pp. 17-30.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0413
Note: PE
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  1. Feldstein, Martin S & Green, Jerry & Sheshinski, Eytan, 1979. "Corporate Financial Policy and Taxation in a Growing Economy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 411-32, August.
  2. Bradford, David F., 1981. "The incidence and allocation effects of a tax on corporate distributions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 1-22, February.
  3. Feldstein, Martin S & Slemrod, Joel, 1980. "Personal Taxation, Portfolio Choice, and the Effect of the Corporation Income Tax," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(5), pages 854-66, October.
  4. Sudipto Bhattacharya, 1979. "Imperfect Information, Dividend Policy, and "The Bird in the Hand" Fallacy," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 259-270, Spring.
  5. Feldstein, Martin S, 1970. "Corporate Taxation and Dividend Behaviour," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(1), pages 57-72, January.
  6. Auerbach, Alan J, 1979. "Wealth Maximization and the Cost of Capital," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 433-46, August.
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