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Portfolios of the Rich

  • Christopher D. Carroll

Recent research has shown that rich' households save at much higher rates than others (see Carroll (2000); Dynan, Skinner, and Zeldes (1996); Gentry and Hubbard (1998); Huggett (1996); Quadrini (1999)). This paper documents another large difference between the rich and the rest of the population: portfolios of the rich are heavily skewed toward risky assets, particularly investments in their own privately held businesses. The paper explores three possible explanations of these facts. First, perhaps there is exogenous variation in risk tolerance, so that highly risk tolerant house-holds engage in high-risk, high-return activities, and the risk-lovers who are lucky constitute the rich. A second possibility is that capital market imperfections a la Gentry and Hubbard (1998)and Quadrini (1999) require entrepreneurial activities to be largely self-financed, and these same imperfections imply that entreprenurial investment will yield high average returns. The final possibility is that wealth enters households' utility functions directly as a luxury good as in Carroll (2000) (one interpretation is that this reflects the utility of anticipated bequests), implying that risk aversion declines as wealth rises. The paper concludes that the overall pattern of facts suggests both Carroll-style utility and Gentry/Hubbard-Quadrini style capital market imperfections are important.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7826.

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Date of creation: Aug 2000
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Publication status: published as Guiso, Luigi, Michael Haliassos, and Tullio Jappelli (eds.) Household portfolios. Cambridge and London: MIT Press, 2002.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7826
Note: ME
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  1. Carol C. Bertaut & Michael Haliassos, 1996. "Precautionary portfolio behavior from a life-cycle perspective," International Finance Discussion Papers 542, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  2. Robert B. Barsky & Miles S. Kimball & F. Thomas Juster & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1995. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Working Papers 5213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Gurdip S. Bakshi & Zhiwu Chen, 1996. "The Spirit of Capitalism and Stock-Market Prices," CEMA Working Papers 511, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
  4. Douglas Holtz-Eakin & David Joulfaian & Harvey Rosen, 1992. "Entrepreneurial Decisions and Liquidity Constraints," Working Papers 679, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  5. Eric M. Engen & William G. Gale & Cori R. Uccello, 1999. "The Adequacy of Retirement Saving," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 30(2), pages 65-188.
  6. Carroll, Christopher D, 1997. "Buffer-Stock Saving and the Life Cycle/Permanent Income Hypothesis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 1-55, February.
  7. Vincenzo Quadrini, 2000. "Entrepreneurship, Saving and Social Mobility," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 3(1), pages 1-40, January.
  8. James M. Poterba, 2001. "Taxation and Portfolio Structure: Issues and Implications," NBER Working Papers 8223, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521465434 is not listed on IDEAS
  10. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1997. "A Case for Happiness, Cardinalism, and Interpersonal Comparability," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1848-58, November.
  11. Oswald, Andrew, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 478, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  12. Zou, Heng-fu, 1994. "'The spirit of capitalism' and long-run growth," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 279-293, July.
  13. Huggett, Mark, 1996. "Wealth distribution in life-cycle economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 469-494, December.
  14. Mervyn A. King & Jonathan I. Leape, 1987. "Asset Accumulation, Information, and the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 2392, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Karen E. Dynan & Jonathan Skinner & Stephen P. Zeldes, 2004. "Do the Rich Save More?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(2), pages 397-444, April.
  16. Barro, Robert J., 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Scholarly Articles 3451399, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  17. Hubbard, R. Glenn & Skinner, Jonathan & Zeldes, Stephen P., 1994. "The importance of precautionary motives in explaining individual and aggregate saving," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 59-125, June.
  18. Auten, Gerald & Joulfaian, David, 1996. "Charitable contributions and intergenerational transfers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 55-68, January.
  19. Kahneman, Daniel & Wakker, Peter P & Sarin, Rakesh, 1997. "Back to Bentham? Explorations of Experienced Utility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 375-405, May.
  20. Angus Deaton, 1989. "Saving and Liquidity Constraints," NBER Working Papers 3196, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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