Is the Cost of Equity Greater than the Risk-Free Rate?

22 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2019 Last revised: 14 Oct 2019

See all articles by J.B. Heaton

J.B. Heaton

One Hat Research LLC; J.B. Heaton, P.C.

Date Written: July 29, 2019


Based on recent evidence, we may not be able to reject the hypothesis that the cost of equity for individual common stocks is close to the risk-free rate. One explanation for this outcome would be the combination of excessive optimism with risk aversion, a combination that can generate behavior that is observationally equivalent to risk neutrality or even risk seeking. Moreover, if the cost of equity is near the risk-free rate, expected cash flows are lower than assumed, a possibility that is consistent with firms that are finite, and often short-lived, by contrast to prices explained by infinite dividend discount models with higher discount rates. The hypothesis advanced here can help explain why the R-squared in individual-stock regressions is so low and the relationship between idiosyncratic risk and expected returns. The hypothesis could also help further explain the failure of active investment management in U.S. equities.

Keywords: discount rates, cost of capital, cost of equity, optimism

Suggested Citation

Heaton, J.B., Is the Cost of Equity Greater than the Risk-Free Rate? (July 29, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

J.B. Heaton (Contact Author)

One Hat Research LLC ( email )

20 West Kinzie
17th Floor
Chicago, IL 60654
United States

J.B. Heaton, P.C. ( email )

Chicago, IL
United States
(312) 487-2600 (Phone)


Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics