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Measuring Risk Aversion and the Wealth Effect

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  • Heinemann, Frank

Abstract

Measuring risk aversion is sensitive to assumptions about the wealth in subjects’ utility functions. Data from the same subjects in low- and high-stake lottery decisions allow estimating the wealth in a pre-specified one-parameter utility function simultaneously with risk aversion. This paper first shows how wealth estimates can be identified assuming constant relative risk aversion (CRRA). Using the data from a recent experiment by Holt and Laury (2002), it is shown that most subjects’ behavior is consistent with CRRA at some wealth level. However, for realistic wealth levels most subjects’ behavior implies a decreasing relative risk aversion. An alternative explanation is that subjects do not fully integrate their wealth with income from the experiment. Within-subject data do not allow discriminating between the two hypotheses. Using between-subject data, maximum-likelihood estimates of a hybrid utility function indicate that aggregate behavior can be described by expected utility from income rather than expected utility from final wealth and partial relative risk aversion is increasing in the scale of payoffs.

Suggested Citation

  • Heinemann, Frank, 2005. "Measuring Risk Aversion and the Wealth Effect," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 156, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:trf:wpaper:156
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    File URL: https://epub.ub.uni-muenchen.de/13395/1/156.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Uri Gneezy & Jan Potters, 1997. "An Experiment on Risk Taking and Evaluation Periods," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 631-645.
    2. Charles A. Holt & Susan K. Laury, 2002. "Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1644-1655, December.
    3. Matthew Rabin & Richard H. Thaler, 2001. "Anomalies: Risk Aversion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(1), pages 219-232, Winter.
    4. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    5. Laura Schechter, 2007. "Risk aversion and expected-utility theory: A calibration exercise," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 35(1), pages 67-76, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2010. "Risk aversion and expected utility of consumption over time," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 208-219, January.
    2. Booij, Adam S. & van Praag, Bernard M.S., 2009. "A simultaneous approach to the estimation of risk aversion and the subjective time discount rate," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 70(1-2), pages 374-388, May.
    3. Richard Engelbrecht-Wiggans & Elena Katok, 2006. "E-sourcing in Procurement: Theory and Behavior in Reverse Auctions with Noncompetitive Contracts," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 52(4), pages 581-596, April.
    4. Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2006. "A Note on the Risk Behavior and Death of Homo Economicus," Working Papers in Economics 221, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    lottery choice; risk aversion; myopic risk aversion;

    JEL classification:

    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty

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