D8 Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
Trust, sociability and stock market participation
- 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.
Monetary policy and uncertainty about the natural unemployment rate
- Inflation-targeting central banks have only imperfect knowledge about the effect of policy decisions on inflation. An important source of uncertainty is the relationship between inflation and unemployment. This paper studies the optimal monetary policy in the presence of uncertainty about the natural unemployment rate, the short-run inflation-unemployment tradeoff and the degree of inflation persistence in a simple macroeconomic model, which incorporates rational learning by the central bank as well as private sector agents. Two conflicting motives drive the optimal policy. In the static version of the model, uncertainty provides a motive for the policymaker to move more cautiously than she would if she knew the true parameters. In the dynamic version, uncertainty also motivates an element of experimentation in policy. I find that the optimal policy that balances the cautionary and activist motives typically exhibits gradualism, that is, it still remains less aggressive than a policy that disregards parameter uncertainty. Exceptions occur when uncertainty is very high and in inflation close to target.
Cognitive abilities and portfolio choice
- 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.