- 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. JEL-Classifications: C35, D14, G11, G35 Keywords: Foreign Assets, Household Finance, Stockholding, Multivariate Probit, Simulated Maximum Likelihood, Selection.
- 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
- Household economic decisions under the shadow of terrorism (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).
- 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.
- Differences in portfolios across countries: economic environment versus household characteristics : [Version 23 November 2011] (2014)
- We document and study international differences in both ownership and holdings of stocks, private businesses, homes, and mortgages among households aged fifty or more in thirteen countries, using new and comparable survey data. We employ counterfactual techniques to decompose observed differences across the Atlantic, within the US, and within Europe into those arising from differences in population characteristics and differences in economic environments. We then correlate the latter differences to country-level indicators. Ownership across the range of the assets considered tends to be more widespread among US households. We document that shortly prior to the current crisis, US households tended to invest larger amounts in stocks and smaller ones in homes, and to have larger mortgages in older age, even controlling for characteristics. This is consistent with the high prevalence of negative equity associated with the current crisis. More generally, we find that differences in household characteristics often play a small role, while differences in economic environments tend to explain most of the observed differences in ownership rates and in amounts held. The latter differences are much more pronounced among European countries than among US regions, suggesting further potential for harmonization of policies and institutions.
- 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.
- 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.
- Early life conditions and financial risk–taking in older age (2011)
- Using life-history survey data from eleven European countries, we investigate whether childhood conditions, such as socioeconomic status, cognitive abilities and health problems influence portfolio choice and risk attitudes later in life. After controlling for the corresponding conditions in adulthood, we find that superior cognitive skills in childhood (especially mathematical abilities) are positively associated with stock and mutual fund ownership. Childhood socioeconomic status, as indicated by the number of rooms and by having at least some books in the house during childhood, is also positively associated with the ownership of stocks, mutual funds and individual retirement accounts, as well as with the willingness to take financial risks. On the other hand, less risky assets like bonds are not affected by early childhood conditions. We find only weak effects of childhood health problems on portfolio choice in adulthood. Finally, favorable childhood conditions affect the transition in and out of risky asset ownership, both by making divesting less likely and by facilitating investing (i.e., transitioning from non-ownership to ownership).