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Habit Formation and the Equity-Premium Puzzle: a Skeptical View

Stefano G. Athanasoulis: University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business, Department of Finance, Notre Dame, IN 46556-5646

Oren Sussman: Wadham College and Said Business School University of Oxford



We argue that ceteris paribus, introducing a habit that resolves the equity premium puzzle is equivalent to increasing the coefficient of relative risk aversion. Thus, if habit is modeled subject to the constraint that the Arrow-Pratt coefficient of relative risk aversion is held at a constant ‘acceptable’ level, the effect on the equity premium is not quantitatively significant. In a dynamic setting, the fluctuations of the habit increase the equity premium, slightly. However, modest improvement in the model’s predictive power comes at a cost of generating unrealistic fluctuations in the risk-free interest rate. Our analysis of these findings yields the following result: a habit is observationally equivalent,up to afirst order approximation, to a higher relative risk aversion and to a preference shock. Both these effects are known to be insufficient for resolving the equity-premium puzzle.

JEL G0,G1; Keywords: equity premium, risk-free interest rate, habit formation


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