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Limited Capital Market Participation and Human Capital Risk

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  • Jonathan Berk
  • Johan Walden

Abstract

The non-tradability of human capital is often cited for the failure of traditional asset pricing theory to explain agents' portfolio holdings. In this paper we argue that the opposite might be true --- traditional models might not be able to explain agent portfolio holdings because they do not explicitly account for the fact that human capital does trade (in the form of labor contracts). We derive wages endogenously as part of a dynamic equilibrium in a production economy. Risk is shared in labor markets because firms write bilateral labor contracts that insure workers, allowing agents to achieve a Pareto optimal allocation even when the span of asset markets is restricted to just stocks and bonds. Capital markets facilitate this risk sharing because it is there that firms offload the labor market risk they assumed from workers. In effect, by investing in capital markets investors provide insurance to wage earners who then optimally choose not to participate in capital markets. The model can produce some of the most important stylized facts in asset pricing: (1) limited asset market participation, (2) the seemingly high equity risk premium, (3) the very large disparity in the volatility of consumption and the volatility of asset prices, and (4) the time dependent correlation between consumption growth and asset returns.

Suggested Citation

  • Jonathan Berk & Johan Walden, 2010. "Limited Capital Market Participation and Human Capital Risk," NBER Working Papers 15709, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15709 Note: AP
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Betermier, Sebastien & Jansson, Thomas & Parlour, Christine & Walden, Johan, 2012. "Hedging labor income risk," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(3), pages 622-639.
    2. Agrawal, Ashwini K. & Matsa, David A., 2013. "Labor unemployment risk and corporate financing decisions," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 69608, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Agrawal, Ashwini K. & Matsa, David A., 2013. "Labor unemployment risk and corporate financing decisions," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(2), pages 449-470.
    4. Betermier, Sebastien & Jansson, Thomas & Parlour, Christine A. & Walden, Johan, 2011. "Hedging Labor Income Risk," Working Paper Series 255, Sveriges Riksbank (Central Bank of Sweden).
    5. Paige Ouimet & Rebecca Zarutskie, 2011. "Acquiring Labor," Working Papers 11-32, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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