Matching and the Changing Properties of Accounting Earnings Over the Last 40 Years
Posted: 28 May 2008
We present a theory that poor matching manifests as noise in the economic relation of advancing expenses to earn revenues. As a result, poor matching decreases the correlation between contemporaneous revenues and expenses, increases earnings volatility, decreases earnings persistence, and induces a negative autocorrelation in earnings changes. The empirical tests document these effects in a sample of the 1,000 largest U.S. firms over the last 40 years. We find a clear and economically substantial trend of declining contemporaneous correlation between revenues and expenses, increased volatility of earnings, declining persistence of earnings, and increased negative autocorrelation in earnings changes. The combined evidence suggests that accounting matching has become worse over time and that this trend has a pronounced effect on the properties of the resulting earnings. This evidence also suggests that the standard setters' stated goal of moving away from matching and towards more fair-value accounting is likely to continue and deepen the identified trends in the properties of earnings.
Keywords: matching principle, fair-value accounting, earnings properties
JEL Classification: M41, M44, C21
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