Year of publication
- Equity culture and the distribution of wealth (2005)
- Wider participation in stockholding is often presumed to reduce wealth inequality. We measure and decompose changes in US wealth inequality between 1989 and 2001, a period of considerable spread of equity culture. Inequality in equity wealth is found to be important for net wealth inequality, despite equity's limited share. Our findings show that reduced wealth inequality is not a necessary outcome of the spread of equity culture. We estimate contributions of stockholder characteristics to levels and inequality in equity holdings, and we distinguish changes in configuration of the stockholder pool from changes in the influence of given characteristics. Our estimates imply that both the 1989 and the 2001 stockholder pools would have produced higher equity holdings in 1998 than were actually observed for 1998 stockholders. This arises from differences both in optimal holdings and in financial attitudes and practices, suggesting a dilution effect of the boom followed by a cleansing effect of the downturn. Cumulative gains and losses in stockholding are shown to be significantly influenced by length of household investment horizon and portfolio breadth but, controlling for those, use of professional advice is either insignificant or counterproductive. JEL Classification: E21, G11
- Household debt and social interactions : [Version 1 März 2012] (2012)
- Debt-induced crises, including the subprime, are usually attributed exclusively to supply-side factors. We examine the role of social influences on debt culture, emanating from perceived average income of peers. Utilizing unique information from a household survey representative of the Dutch population, that circumvents the issue of defining the social circle, we consider collateralized, consumer, and informal loans. We find robust social effects on borrowing, especially among those who consider themselves poorer than their peers; and on indebtedness, suggesting a link to financial distress. We employ a number of approaches to rule out spurious associations and to handle correlated effects.
- Wealth shocks, unemployment shocks and consumption in the wake of the Great Recession (2011)
- We use data from the 2009 Internet Survey of the Health and Retirement Study to examine the consumption impact of wealth shocks and unemployment during the Great Recession in the US. We find that many households experienced large capital losses in housing and in their financial portfolios, and that a non-trivial fraction of respondents have lost their job. As a consequence of these shocks, many households reduced substantially their expenditures. We estimate that the marginal propensities to consume with respect to housing and financial wealth are 1 and 3.3 percentage points, respectively. In addition, those who became unemployed reduced spending by 10 percent. We also distinguish the effect of perceived transitory and permanent wealth shocks, splitting the sample between households who think that the stock market is likely to recover in a year’s time, and those who don’t. In line with the predictions of standard models of intertemporal choice, we find that the latter group adjusted much more than the former its spending in response to financial wealth shocks.
- Household debt and social interactions : [Version 18 Januar 2013] (2013)
- Debt-induced crises, including the subprime, are usually attributed exclusively to supply-side factors. We uncover an additional factor contributing to debt culture, namely social influences emanating from the perceived average income of peers. Using unique information from a representative household survey of the Dutch population that circumvents the need to define the social circle, we consider collateralized, consumer, and informal loans. We find robust social effects on borrowing – especially among those who consider themselves poorer than their peers – and on indebtedness, suggesting a link to financial distress. We check the robustness of our results using several approaches to rule out spurious associations and handle correlated effects.
- Economic integration and mature portfolios (2008)
- This paper documents and studies sources of international differences in participation and holdings in stocks, private businesses, and homes among households aged 50+ in the US, England, and eleven continental European countries, using new internationally comparable, household-level data. With greater integration of asset and labor markets and policies, households of given characteristics should be holding more similar portfolios for old age. We decompose observed differences across the Atlantic, within the US, and within Europe into those arising from differences: a) in the distribution of characteristics and b) in the influence of given characteristics. We find that US households are generally more likely to own these assets than their European counterparts. However, European asset owners tend to hold smaller real, PPP-adjusted amounts in stocks and larger in private businesses and primary residence than US owners at comparable points in the distribution of holdings, even controlling for differences in configuration of characteristics. Differences in characteristics often play minimal or no role. Differences in market conditions are much more pronounced among European countries than among US regions, suggesting significant potential for further integration.
- Household economic decisions under the shadow of terrorism : [This Version: January 4, 2009] (2008)
- We investigate, using the 2002 US Health and Retirement Study, the factors influencing individuals’ insecurity and expectations about terrorism, and study the effects these last have on households’ portfolio choices and spending patterns. We find that females, the religiously devout, those equipped with a better memory, the less educated, and those living close to where the events of September 2001 took place worry a lot about their safety. In addition, fear of terrorism discourages households from investing in stocks, mostly through the high levels of insecurity felt by females. Insecurity due to terrorism also makes single men less likely to own a business. Finally, we find evidence of expenditure shifting away from recreational activities that can potentially leave one exposed to a terrorist attack and towards goods that might help one cope with the consequences of terrorism materially (increased use of car and spending on the house) or psychologically (spending on personal care products by females in couples).
- Portfolio inertia and stock market fluctuations (2006)
- Several recent studies have addressed household participation in the stock market, but relatively few have focused on household stock trading behavior. Household trading is important for the stock market, as households own more than 40% of the NYSE capitalization directly and can also influence trading patterns of institutional investors by adjusting their indirect stock holdings. Existing studies based on administrative data offer conflicting results. Discount brokerage data show excessive trading to the detriment of stockholders, while data on retirement accounts indicate extreme inactivity. This paper uses data representative of the population to document the extent of household portfolio inertia and to link it to household characteristics and to stock market movements. We document considerable portfolio inertia, as regards both changing stockholding participation status and trading stocks, and find that specific household characteristics contribute to the tendency to exhibit such inertia. Although our findings suggest some dependence of trading directly-held equity through brokerage accounts on the performance of the stock market index, they do not indicate that the recent expansion in the stockholder base and the experience of the stock market downswing have significantly altered the overall propensity of households to trade in stocks or to switch participation status in a way that could contribute to stock market instability. JEL Classification: G110, E210
- Trust, sociability and stock market participation (2009)
- We investigate the effects of both trust and sociability for stock market participation, the role of which has been examined separately by existing finance literature. We use internationally comparable household data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe supplemented with regional information on generalized trust from the World Value Survey and on specific trust to financial institutions from Eurobarometer. We show that trust and sociability have distinct and sizeable positive effects on stock market participation and that sociability is likely to partly balance the discouragement effect on stockholding induced by low generalized trust in the region of residence. We also show that specific trust in advice given by financial institutions represents a prominent factor for stock investing, compared to other tangible features of the banking environment. Probing further into various groups of households, we find that sociability can induce stockholding among the less well off in Sweden, Denmark, and Switzerland where stock market participation is widespread. On the other hand, the effect of generalized trust is strong in countries with limited participation and low average trust like Austria, Spain, and Italy, offering an explanation for the remarkably low participation rates of the wealthy living therein.
- Stockholding: from participation to location and to participation spillovers (2009)
- This paper provides a joint analysis of household stockholding participation, stock location among stockholding modes, and participation spillovers, using data from the US Survey of Consumer Finances. Our multivariate choice model matches observed participation rates, conditional and unconditional, and asset location patterns. Financial education and sophistication strongly affect direct stockholding and mutual fund participation, while social interactions affect stockholding through retirement accounts only. Household characteristics influence stockholding through retirement accounts conditional on owning retirement accounts, unlike what happens with stockholding through mutual funds. Although stockholding is more common among retirement account owners, this fact is mainly due to their characteristics that led them to buy retirement accounts in the first place rather than to any informational advantages gained through retirement account ownership itself. Finally, our results suggest that, taking stockholding as given, stock location is not arbitrary but crucially depends on investor characteristics. JEL Classification: G11, E21, D14, C35
- Investing at home and abroad: different costs, different people? (2009)
- We investigate US households’ direct investment in stocks, bonds and liquid accounts and their foreign counterparts, in order to identify the different participation hurdles affecting asset investment domestically and overseas. To this end, we estimate a trivariate probit model with three further selection equations that allows correlations among unobservables of all possible asset choices. Our results point to the existence of a second hurdle that stock owners need to overcome in order to invest in foreign stocks. Among stockholders, we show that economic resources, willingness to assume greater financial risks, shopping around for the best investment opportunities all increase the probability to invest in foreign stocks. Furthermore, we find that households who seek financial advice from relatives, friends and work contacts are less likely to invest in foreign stocks. This result corroborates the conjecture by Hong et al. (2004) that social interactions should discourage investment in foreign stocks, given their limited popularity. On the other hand, we find little evidence for additional pecuniary or informational costs associated with investment in foreign bonds and liquid accounts. Finally, we show that ignoring correlations of unobservables across different asset choices can lead to very misleading results.