Keynes Meets Markowitz: The Trade-Off between Familiarity and Diversification
45 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2010
Date Written: February 2010
We develop a model of portfolio choice to nest the views of Keynes - who advocates concentration in a few familiar assets - and Markowitz - who advocates diversification across assets. We rely on the concepts of ambiguity and ambiguity aversion to formalize the idea of an investors "familiarity" toward assets. The model shows that when an investor is equally ambiguous about all assets, then the optimal portfolio corresponds to Markowitzs fully diversified portfolio. In contrast, when an investor exhibits different degrees of familiarity across assets, the optimal portfolio depends on (i) the relative degree of ambiguity across assets, and (ii) the standard deviation of the estimate of expected return on each asset. If the standard deviation of the expected return estimate and the difference between the ambiguity about familiar and unfamiliar assets are low, then the optimal portfolio is composed of a mix of both familiar and unfamiliar assets; moreover, an increase in correlation between assets causes an investor to increase concentration in the assets with which they are familiar (flight to familiarity). Alternatively, if the standard deviation of the expected return estimate and the difference between the ambiguity of familiar and unfamiliar assets are high, then the optimal portfolio contains only the familiar asset(s) as Keynes would have advocated. In the extreme case in which the ambiguity about all assets and the standard deviation of the estimated mean are high, then no risky asset is held (non-participation). The model also has empirically testable implications for trading behavior: in response to a change in idiosyncratic volatility, the Keynesian portfolio always exhibits more trading than the Markowitz portfolio, while the opposite is true for a change in systematic volatility. In the equilibrium version of the model with heterogeneous investors who are familiar with different assets, we find that the risk premium of stocks depends on both systematic and idiosyncratic volatility, and that the equity risk premium is significantly higher than in the standard model without ambiguity.
Keywords: ambiguity, diversification, investment, portfolio choice, robust control
JEL Classification: D81, G11, G12, G23
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation