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Volatility, Investment and Disappointment Aversion


  • Joshua Aizenman
  • Nancy Marion


This study uncovers a statistically significant negative correlation between volatility and private investment over the 1970-93 period in a set of almost fifty developing countries and provides a possible interpretation of this result by using the disappointment- aversion expected utility framework first described by Gul (1991). We consider a number of different volatility measures related to domestic policies or to external factors. As the various volatility measures tend to be positively correlated, we do not claim to identify a unique measure as the dominant source of volatility. Instead, we demonstrate that for a number of different measures, volatility reduces private investment in developing countries. We then show that the disappointment-aversion framework provides a useful way of illustrating the adverse first-order effects of volatility. When agents are disappointment-averse, they put more weight on 'bad' outcomes and less weight on 'good' outcomes than in the standard case. The asymmetric weighting of outcomes introduces additional concavity into the utility function and causes volatility to have significant, negative effects on economic performance. The large, negative effects of increased volatility continue to hold even if the coefficient of relative risk aversion approaches zero (that is, even if the marginal utility of income is constant so that agents are risk neutral in the conventional sense).

Suggested Citation

  • Joshua Aizenman & Nancy Marion, 1995. "Volatility, Investment and Disappointment Aversion," NBER Working Papers 5386, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5386
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert S. Pindyck & Andrés Solimano, 1993. "Economic Instability and Aggregate Investment," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1993, Volume 8, pages 259-318 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    7. Segal, Uzi & Spivak, Avia, 1990. "First order versus second order risk aversion," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 111-125, June.
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    13. Gilboa, Itzhak, 1987. "Expected utility with purely subjective non-additive probabilities," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 65-88, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Serven, Luis, 1998. "Macroeconomic uncertainty and private investment in developing countries - an empirical investigation," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2035, The World Bank.
    2. Desbordes, Rodolphe, 2007. "The sensitivity of U.S. multinational enterprises to political and macroeconomic uncertainty: A sectoral analysis," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 732-750, December.
    3. Saman, Corina, 2010. "Macroeconomic Uncertainty and Investment – Empirical Analysis for Romania," Journal for Economic Forecasting, Institute for Economic Forecasting, vol. 0(2), pages 155-164, July.
    4. repec:asi:ajoerj:2013:p:633-653 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Hjalmar Boehm & Michael Funke, 2000. "Optimal Investment Strategies under Demand and Tax Policy Uncertainty," CESifo Working Paper Series 311, CESifo Group Munich.
    6. Bayraktar, Nihal & Fofack, Hippolyte, 2007. "Specification of investment functions in Sub-Saharan Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4171, The World Bank.
    7. Aymo Brunetti & Beatrice Weder, 1998. "Investment and institutional uncertainty: A comparative study of different uncertainty measures," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 134(3), pages 513-533, September.
    8. Cherif, Reda & Hasanov, Fuad, 2011. "The volatility trap: why do big savers invest relatively little?," MPRA Paper 31286, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Serven, Luis, 1997. "Uncertainty, instability, and irreversible investment : theory, evidence, and lessons for Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1722, The World Bank.
    10. Serven, Luis, 2002. "Real exchange rate uncertainty and private investment in developing countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2823, The World Bank.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F21 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Investment; Long-Term Capital Movements
    • F43 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Economic Growth of Open Economies


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