- Center for Financial Studies (CFS) (14) (remove)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Equity culture and the distribution of wealth (2013)
- Is wider access to stockholding opportunities related to reduced wealth inequality, given that it creates challenges for small and less sophisticated investors? Counterfactual analysis is used to study the influence of changes in the US stockholder pool and economic environment, on the distribution of stock and net household wealth during a period of dramatic increase in stock market participation. We uncover substantial shifts in stockholder pool composition, favoring smaller holdings during the 1990s upswing but larger holdings around the burst of the Internet bubble. We find no evidence that widening access to stocks was associated with reduced net wealth inequality.
- Financial literacy and savings account returns (2015)
- Savings accounts are owned by most households, but little is known about the performance of households’ investments. We create a unique dataset by matching information on individual savings accounts from the DNB Household Survey with market data on account-specific interest rates and characteristics. We document considerable heterogeneity in returns across households, which can be partly explained by financial sophistication. A one-standard deviation increase in financial literacy is associated with a 13% increase compared to the median interest rate. We isolate the usage of modern technology (online accounts) as one channel through which financial literacy has a positive association with returns.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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