What Do Mutual Fund Investors Really Care About?

Fisher College of Business Working Paper No. 2019-03-005

Charles A. Dice Center Working Paper No. 2019-5

Review of Financial Studies, forthcoming

73 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2019 Last revised: 28 Sep 2021

See all articles by Itzhak Ben-David

Itzhak Ben-David

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Finance; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Jiacui Li

David Eccles School of Business, University of Utah

Andrea Rossi

University of Arizona - Department of Finance

Yang Song

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business

Date Written: September 28, 2021

Abstract

We show that mutual fund investors rely on simple signals and likely do not engage in sophisticated learning about managers' alpha as widely believed. Simplistic performance chasing best explains aggregate flows to the mutual fund space and flows across funds. These results hold for both actively managed and passive index funds. Empirical patterns commonly interpreted as reflecting learning about managerial skill also appear in falsification tests and are mechanical. Our results are consistent with the view that, on average, households are homo sapiens with limited financial sophistication rather than hyperrational alpha-maximizing agents, as often assumed in the literature.

Keywords: Mutual funds, retail investors, fund flows, Morningstar, CAPM, asset pricing models

JEL Classification: G11, G12, G24, G41

Suggested Citation

Ben-David, Itzhak and Li, Jiacui and Rossi, Andrea and Song, Yang, What Do Mutual Fund Investors Really Care About? (September 28, 2021). Fisher College of Business Working Paper No. 2019-03-005, Charles A. Dice Center Working Paper No. 2019-5, Review of Financial Studies, forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3292317

Itzhak Ben-David (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Finance ( email )

2100 Neil Avenue
Fisher 700D
Columbus, OH 43210-1144
United States
773 988 1353 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://u.osu.edu/ben-david.1/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02138
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HOME PAGE: http://fisher.osu.edu/fin/faculty/Ben-David/

Jiacui Li

David Eccles School of Business, University of Utah ( email )

8123 SFEBB, 1655 Campus Center Dr
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.jiacui-li.com/

Andrea Rossi

University of Arizona - Department of Finance ( email )

McClelland Hall
P.O. Box 210108
Tucson, AZ 85721-0108
United States

Yang Song

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business ( email )

Box 353200
Seattle, WA 98195-3200
United States

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