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The Effect of Housing on Portfolio Choice

  • Raj Chetty
  • Adam Szeidl

Economic theory predicts that home ownership should have a negative effect on risk-taking in financial portfolios. However, empirical work has not found a strong relationship between housing and portfolios. We identify two reasons for the divergence between the theory and data. First, it is critical to distinguish between home equity wealth and mortgage debt, as they have opposite-signed effects on portfolio choice. Second, it is important to isolate variation in home equity and mortgage debt that is orthogonal to unobserved determinants of portfolios. We estimate a model that permits home equity and mortgage debt to have different effects on portfolio shares. We isolate plausibly exogenous variation in home equity and mortgages by using differences across housing markets in average house prices and housing supply elasticities as instruments. Using data for 60,000 households, we find that increases in property value (holding home equity constant) reduce stockholding significantly, while increases in home equity wealth (holding property value constant) raise stockholding. Our estimates imply that the stock share of liquid wealth would rise by 1 percentage point – 6% of the mean stock share – if a household were to spend 10% less on its house, holding fixed wealth. We conclude that housing has substantial impacts on portfolio choice, as theory predicts.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w15998.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15998.

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Date of creation: May 2010
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15998
Note: AG AP EFG PE
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  1. Raj Chetty & Adam Szeidl, 2007. "Consumption Commitments and Risk Preferences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(2), pages 831-877, 05.
  2. Yamashita, Takashi, 2003. "Owner-occupied housing and investment in stocks: an empirical test," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 220-237, March.
  3. Charles Himmelberg & Christopher Mayer & Todd Sinai, 2005. "Assessing high house prices: bubbles, fundamentals, and misperceptions," Staff Reports 218, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  4. Steven J. Davis & Felix Kubler & Paul Willen, 2005. "Borrowing costs and the demand for equity over the life cycle," Working Papers 05-7, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  5. Heaton, John & Lucas, Deborah, 2000. "Portfolio Choice in the Presence of Background Risk," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(460), pages 1-26, January.
  6. Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2002. "Towards an Explanation of Household Portfolio Choice Heterogeneity: Nonfinancial Income and Participation Cost Structures," NBER Working Papers 8884, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Davidoff, Thomas, 2010. "Home equity commitment and long-term care insurance demand," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1-2), pages 44-49, February.
  8. Joao F. Cocco, 2005. "Portfolio Choice in the Presence of Housing," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 18(2), pages 535-567.
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