Year of publication
- Economic literacy: an international comparison (2010)
- Many studies show that most people are not financially literate and are unfamiliar with even the most basic economic concepts. However, the evidence on the determinants of economic literacy is scant. This paper uses international panel data on 55 countries from 1995 to 2008, merging indicators of economic literacy with a large set of macroeconomic and institutional variables. Results show that there is substantial heterogeneity of financial and economic competence across countries, and that human capital indicators (PISA test scores and college attendance) are positively correlated with economic literacy. Furthermore, inhabitants of countries with more generous social security systems are generally less literate, lending support to the hypothesis that the incentives to acquire economic literacy are related to the amount of resources available for private accumulation. JEL Classification: E2, D8, G1 Keywords: Economic Literacy, Human Capital, Social Security
- Households’ saving and debt in Italy (2007)
- We review savings trends in Italy, summarizing available empirical evidence on Italians’ motives to save, relying on macroeconomic indicators as well as on data drawn from the Bank of Italy’s Survey of Household Income and Wealth from 1984 to 2004. The macroeconomic data indicate that households’ saving has dropped significantly, although Italy continues to rank above most other countries in terms of saving. We then examine with microeconomic data four indicators of household financial conditions: the propensity to save, the proportion of households with negative savings, the proportion of households with debt, and the proportion of households that lack access to formal credit markets. By international comparison, the level of debt of Italian households and default risk are relatively low. But in light of the deep changes undergone by the Italian pension system, the fall in saving is a concern, particularly for individuals who entered the labor market after the 1995 reform and who have experienced the largest decline in pension wealth. JEL Classification: D91
- A direct test of the buffer-stock model of saving (2007)
- Recent models with liquidity constraints and impatience emphasize that consumers use savings to buffer income fluctuations. When wealth is below an optimal target, consumers try to increase their buffer stock of wealth by saving more. When it is above target, they increase consumption. This important implication of the buffer stock model of saving has not been subject to direct empirical testing. We derive from the model an appropriate theoretical restriction and test it using data on working-age individuals drawn from the 2002 and 2004 Italian Surveys of Household Income and Wealth. One of the most appealing features of the survey is that it has data on the amount of wealth held for precautionary purposes, which we interpret as target wealth in a buffer stock model. The test results do not support buffer stock behavior, even among population groups that are more likely, a priori, to display such behavior. The saving behavior of young households is instead consistent with models in which impatience, relative to prudence, is not as high as in buffer stock models. JEL Classification: D91
- Retirement expectations, pension reforms and their impact on private wealth accumulation (2006)
- We estimate the effect of pension reforms on households' expectations of retirement outcomes and private wealth accumulation decisions exploiting a decade of intense Italian pension reforms as a source of exogenous variation in expected pension wealth. The Survey of Household Income and Wealth, a large random sample of the Italian population, elicits expectations of the age at which workers expect to retire and of the ratio of pension benefits to pre-retirement income between 1989 and 2002. We find that workers have revised expectations in the direction suggested by the reform and that there is substantial offset between private wealth and perceived pension wealth, particularly by workers that are better informed about their pension wealth. Klassifikation: E21, H55
- Awareness and stock market participation (2005)
- The paper documents lack of awareness of financial assets in the 1995 and 1998 Bank of Italy Surveys of Household Income and Wealth. It then explores the determinants of awareness, and finds that the probability that survey respondents are aware of stocks, mutual funds and investment accounts is positively correlated with education, household resources, long-term bank relations and proxies for social interaction. Lack of financial awareness has important implications for understanding the stockholding puzzle and for estimating stock market participation costs. Klassifikation: E2, D8, G1
- Intertemporal choice and consumption mobility (2005)
- The theory of intertemporal consumption choice makes sharp predictions about the evolution of the entire distribution of household consumption, not just about its conditional mean. In the paper, we study the empirical transition matrix of consumption using a panel drawn from the Bank of Italy Survey of Household Income and Wealth. We estimate the parameters that minimize the distance between the empirical and the theoretical transition matrix of the consumption distribution. The transition matrix generated by our estimates matches remarkably well the empirical matrix, both in the aggregate and in samples stratified by education. Our estimates strongly reject the consumption insurance model and suggest that households smooth income shocks to a lesser extent than implied by the permanent income hypothesis. Klassifikation: D52, D91, I30
- 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.
- Cognitive abilities and portfolio choice (2008)
- We study the relation between cognitive abilities and stockholding using the recent Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), which has detailed data on wealth and portfolio composition of individuals aged 50+ in 11 European countries and three indicators of cognitive abilities: mathematical, verbal fluency, and recall skills. We find that the propensity to invest in stocks is strongly associated with cognitive abilities, for both direct stock market participation and indirect participation through mutual funds and retirement accounts. Since the decision to invest in less information-intensive assets (such as bonds) is less strongly related to cognitive abilities, we conclude that the association between cognitive abilities and stockholding is driven by information constraints, rather than by features of preferences or psychological traits.
- Information sharing and credit : firm-level evidence from transition countries (2008)
- We investigate whether information sharing among banks has affected credit market performance in the transition countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, using a large sample of firm-level data. Our estimates show that information sharing is associated with improved availability and lower cost of credit to firms. This correlation is stronger for opaque firms than transparent ones and stronger in countries with weak legal environments than in those with strong legal environments. In cross-sectional estimates, we control for variation in country-level aggregate variables that may affect credit, by examining the differential impact of information sharing across firm types. In panel estimates, we also control for the presence of unobserved heterogeneity at the firm level, as well as for changes in macroeconomic variables and the legal environment.
- Financial market integration under EMU (2008)
- The single most important policy-induced innovation in the international financial system since the collapse of the Bretton-Woods regime is the institution of the European Monetary Union. This paper provides an account of how the process of financial integration has promoted financial development in the euro area. It starts by defining financial integration and how to measure it, analyzes the barriers that can prevent it and the effects of their removal on financial markets, and assesses whether the euro area has actually become more integrated. It then explores to which extent these changes in financial markets have influenced the performance of the euro-area economy, that is, its growth and investment, as well as its ability to adjust to shocks and to allow risk-sharing. The paper concludes analyzing further steps that are required to consolidate financial integration and enhance the future stability of financial markets.