- 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
- Credit card debt puzzles (2005)
- Most US credit card holders revolve high-interest debt, often combined with substantial (i) asset accumulation by retirement, and (ii) low-rate liquid assets. Hyperbolic discounting can resolve only the former puzzle (Laibson et al., 2003). Bertaut and Haliassos (2002) proposed an 'accountant-shopper' framework for the latter. The current paper builds, solves, and simulates a fully-specified accountant-shopper model, to show that this framework can actually generate both types of co-existence, as well as target credit card utilization rates consistent with Gross and Souleles (2002). The benchmark model is compared to setups without self-control problems, with alternative mechanisms, and with impatient but fully rational shoppers. Klassifikation: E210, G110
- 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
- Credit cards: facts and theories (2006)
- We use data from several waves of the Survey of Consumer Finances to document credit and debit card ownership and use across US demographic groups. We then present recent theoretical and empirical contributions to the study of credit and debit card behavior. Utilization rates of credit lines and portfolios of card holders present several puzzles. Credit line increases initiated by banks lead households to restore previous utilization rates. High-interest credit card debt co-exists with substantial holdings of low-interest liquid assets and with accumulation of retirement assets. Although available evidence disputes ignorance of credit card terms by card holders, redit card rates do not respond to competition. There is a rising trend in bankruptcy and delinquency, partly attributable to an increased tendency of households to declare bankruptcy associated with reduced social stigma, ease of procedures, and financial incentives. Co-existence of credit card debt with retirement assets can be explained through self-control hyperbolic discounting. Strategic default motives contribute partly to observed co-existence of credit card debt with low-interest liquid assets. A framework of “accountant-shopper” households, in which a rational accountant tries to control an impulsive shopper, seems consistent with both types of co-existence and with observed utilization of credit lines. JEL Classification: G11, E21
- 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.
- 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
- Financial advisors: a case of babysitters? (2009)
- We merge administrative information from a large German discount brokerage firm with regional data to examine if financial advisors improve portfolio performance. Our data track accounts of 32,751 randomly selected individual customers over 66 months and allow direct comparison of performance across self-managed accounts and accounts run by, or in consultation with, independent financial advisors. In contrast to the picture painted by simple descriptive statistics, econometric analysis that corrects for the endogeneity of the choice of having a financial advisor suggests that advisors are associated with lower total and excess account returns, higher portfolio risk and probabilities of losses, and higher trading frequency and portfolio turnover relative to what account owners of given characteristics tend to achieve on their own. Regression analysis of who uses an IFA suggests that IFAs are matched with richer, older investors rather than with poorer, younger ones.
- Prodigal Italy Greece Spain? (2011)
- Contrary to widely held perceptions, workers in the southern European states that are most afflicted by the sovereign debt crisis work hard. However, labor productivity in these countries lags far behind the EU average. Structural reforms to boost productivity should be at the top of the reform agenda.
- Verschwenderische Südeuropäer? (2011)
- Entgegen der allgemeinen Wahrnehmung arbeiten die Menschen in den südeuropäischen Ländern viel. Ihre durchschnittliche Arbeitsproduktivität liegt jedoch weit unter dem EU-Durchschnitt. Strukturelle Reformen zur Steigerung der Arbeitsproduktivität sollten die höchste Priorität haben.