Does Household Finance Matter? Small Financial Errors with Large Social Costs

63 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2017

See all articles by Harjoat Singh Bhamra

Harjoat Singh Bhamra

Imperial College Business School

Raman Uppal

EDHEC Business School; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 2017

Abstract

Households with familiarity biases tilt their portfolios toward a few risky assets. Consequently, household portfolios are underdiversified and excessively volatile. To understand the implications of underdiversification for social welfare, we solve in closed form a model of a stochastic, dynamic, general-equilibrium economy with a large number of heterogeneous firms and households that bias their investments toward a few familiar assets. We find that the direct mean-variance loss from holding an underdiversified portfolio that is excessively risky is equivalent to a reduction of 1.66% per annum in a household's portfolio return, consistent with the estimate in Calvet, Campbell, and Sodini(2007). However, we show that in a more general model with intertemporal consumption, underdiversified portfolios increase consumption-growth volatility, amplifying the mean-variance losses by a factor of four. Moreover, in general equilibrium where growth is endogenous, underdiversified portfolios distort also aggregate investment and growth even when familiarity biases in portfolios cancel out across households. We find that the overall social welfare loss is about six times as large as the direct mean-variance loss. Our results illustrate that financial markets are not a mere sideshow to the real economy and that financial literacy, regulation, and innovation that improve the financial decisions of households can have a significant positive impact on social welfare.

Keywords: familiarity bias, growth, Portfolio choice, social welfare, underdiversification

JEL Classification: E03, E44, G02, G11

Suggested Citation

Bhamra, Harjoat Singh and Uppal, Raman, Does Household Finance Matter? Small Financial Errors with Large Social Costs (November 2017). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP12414. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3066026

Harjoat Singh Bhamra (Contact Author)

Imperial College Business School ( email )

Tanaka Building
Exhibition Rd
London, SW7 2AZ
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.harjoatbhamra.com

Raman Uppal

EDHEC Business School ( email )

58 rue du Port
Lille, 59046
France

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

90-98 Goswell Road
London, EC1V 7RR
United Kingdom

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