- Center for Financial Studies (CFS) (14) (remove)
- 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.
- 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 (2014)
- 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 do not. 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.
- The impact of health insurance on stockholding: a regression discontinuity approach (2014)
- Using data from the US Health and Retirement Study, we study the causal effect of increased health insurance coverage through Medicare and the associated reduction in health-related background risk on financial risk-taking. Given the onset of Medicare at age 65, we identify our effect of interest using a regression discontinuity approach. We find that getting Medicare coverage induces stockholding for those with at least some college education, but not for their less-educated counterparts. Hence, our results indicate that a reduction in background risk induces financial risk-taking in individuals for whom informational and pecuniary stock market participation costs are relatively low.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.