Recovering Risk Aversion from Option Prices and Realized Returns
A relationship exists between aggregate risk-neutral and subjective probability distributions and risk aversion functions. Using a variation of the method developed by Jackwerth and Rubinstein (1996), we estimate risk-neutral probabilities reliably from option prices. Subjective probabilities are estimated from realized returns. This paper then introduces a technique to empirically derive risk aversion functions implied by option prices and realized returns simultaneously. These risk aversion functions dramatically change shapes around the 1987 crash: Precrash, they are positive and decreasing in wealth and thus consistent with standard economic theory. Postcrash, they are partially negative and increasing and irreconcilable with the theory. Overpricing of out-of-the-money puts is the most likely cause. A simulated trading strategy exploiting this overpricing shows excess returns even after accounting for the possibility of further crashes and transaction costs.
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