Are Dividends Disappearing? Dividend Concentration and the Consolidation of Earnings
Posted: 16 Sep 2003
Aggregate real dividends paid by industrial firms increased over the past two decades even though, as Fama and French (2001, JFE) document, the number of dividend payers decreased by over 50%. The reason is that (i) the reduction in payers occurs almost entirely among firms that paid very small dividends, and (ii) increased real dividends from the top payers swamp the modest dividend reduction from the loss of many small payers. These trends reflect high and increasing concentration in the supply of dividends which, in turn, reflects high and increasing earnings concentration. For example, the 25 firms that paid the largest dividends in 2000 account for a majority of the aggregate dividends and earnings of industrial firms. Industrial firms exhibit a two-tier structure in which a small number of firms with very high earnings collectively generates the majority of earnings and dominates the dividend supply, while the vast majority of firms has at best a modest collective impact on aggregate earnings and dividends.
JEL Classification: G35, G32, M41
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