A Census of the Factor Zoo
7 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2019 Last revised: 16 Oct 2020
Date Written: February 25, 2019
The rate of factor production in the academic research is out of control. We document over 400 factors published in top journals. Surely, many of them are false. We explore the incentives that lead to factor mining and explore reasons why many of the factors are simply lucky findings. The backtested results published in academic outlets are routinely cited to support commercial products. As a consequence, investors develop exaggerated expectations based on inflated backtested results and are then disappointed by the live trading experience. We provide a comprehensive census of factors published in top academic journals through January 2019. We also offer a link to a Google sheet that has detailed information on each factor, including citation information and download links. Finally, we propose a citizen science project that allows researchers to add to our database both published papers as well as working papers.
Here is the updated analysis:
Keywords: Overfitting, Backtesting, Data Mining, Multiple Testing, Factor Investing, Value Investing, Momentum
JEL Classification: G10, G11, G12, G20, G23, G40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation