Standard Risk Aversion

40 Pages Posted: 4 Jul 2004

See all articles by Miles S. Kimball

Miles S. Kimball

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; University of Colorado Boulder; Center for Economic and Social Research, USC; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: March 1991


This paper introduces the concept of standard risk aversion. A von Neumann-Morgenstern utility function has standard risk aversion if any risk makes a small reduction in wealth more painful (in the sense of an increased reduction in expected utility) also makes any undesirable, independent risk more painful. It is shown that, given monotonicity and concavity, the combination of decreasing absolute risk aversion and decreasing absolute prudence is necessary and sufficient for standard risk aversion. Standard risk aversion is shown to imply not only Pratt and Zeckhauser's 'proper risk aversion" (individually undesirable, independent risks always being jointly undesirable) , but also that being forced to face an undesirable risk reduces the optimal investment in a risky security with and independent return. Similar results are established for the effect of broad class of increases in one risk on the desirability of (or optimal investment in) a second, independent risk.

Suggested Citation

Kimball, Miles S., Standard Risk Aversion (March 1991). NBER Working Paper No. t0099. Available at SSRN:

Miles S. Kimball (Contact Author)

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