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Myopic Loss Aversion and the Equity Premium Puzzle

  • Shlomo Benartzi
  • Richard H. Thaler

The equity premium puzzle, first documented by Mehra and Prescott, refers to the empirical fact that stocks have greatly outperformed bonds over the last century. As Mehra and Prescott point out, it appears difficult to explain the magnitude of the equity premium within the usual economics paradigm because the level of risk aversion necessary to justify such a large premium is implausibly large. We offer a new explanation based on Kahneman and Tversky's 'prospect theory'. The explanation has two components. First, investors are assumed to be 'loss averse' meaning they are distinctly more sensitive to losses than to gains. Second, investors are assumed to evaluate their portfolios frequently, even if they have long-term investment goals such as saving for retirement or managing a pension plan. We dub this combination 'myopic loss aversion'. Using simulations we find that the size of the equity premium is consistent with the previously estimated parameters of prospect theory if investors evaluate their portfolios annually. That is, investors appear to choose portfolios as if they were operating with a time horizon of about one year. The same approach is then used to study the size effect. Preliminary results suggest that myopic loss aversion may also have some explanatory power for this anomaly.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4369.

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Date of creation: May 1993
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Publication status: published as Quarterly Journal of Economics, February 1995.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4369
Note: AP
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  1. Philippe Weil, 1989. "The Equity Premium Puzzle and the Riskfree Rate Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 2829, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Experimental Tests of the Endowment Effect and the Coase Theorem," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1325-48, December.
  3. N. Gregory Mankiw & Stephen P. Zeldes, 1990. "The Consumption of Stockholders and Non-Stockholders," NBER Working Papers 3402, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Keim, Donald B., 1983. "Size-related anomalies and stock return seasonality : Further empirical evidence," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 13-32, June.
  5. Samuelson, Paul A, 1969. "Lifetime Portfolio Selection by Dynamic Stochastic Programming," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 51(3), pages 239-46, August.
  6. G. Constantinides, 1990. "Habit formation: a resolution of the equity premium puzzle," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1397, David K. Levine.
  7. Ferson, Wayne E. & Constantinides, George M., 1991. "Habit persistence and durability in aggregate consumption: Empirical tests," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 199-240, October.
  8. Rajnish Mehra, 2006. "The Equity Premium in India," NBER Working Papers 12434, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. R. Mehra & E. Prescott, 2010. "The equity premium: a puzzle," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1401, David K. Levine.
  10. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-41, September.
  11. Samuelson, William & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1988. " Status Quo Bias in Decision Making," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 7-59, March.
  12. Rietz, Thomas A., 1988. "The equity risk premium a solution," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 117-131, July.
  13. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1992. " Advances in Prospect Theory: Cumulative Representation of Uncertainty," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 297-323, October.
  14. 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 247-57, August.
  15. Epstein, Larry G. & Zin, Stanley E., 1990. "'First-order' risk aversion and the equity premium puzzle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 387-407, December.
  16. Hovenkamp, Herbert, 1991. "Legal Policy and the Endowment Effect," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(2), pages 225-47, June.
  17. Pratt, John W & Zeckhauser, Richard J, 1987. "Proper Risk Aversion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(1), pages 143-54, January.
  18. Mehra, Rajnish & Prescott, Edward C., 1988. "The equity risk premium: A solution?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 133-136, July.
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