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Document Type




First Advisor's Name

Dr. Arun Prakash

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Dr. Brice Dupoyet

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Dr. Edward Lawrence

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Dr. Gauri Ghai

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Dr. William Welch

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


diversification, risk aversion, behavioral finance, household portfolios

Date of Defense



My dissertation consists of three essays. The central theme of these essays is the psychological factors and biases that affect the portfolio allocation decision. The first essay entitled, “Are women more risk-averse than men?” examines the gender difference in risk aversion as revealed by actual investment choices. Using a sample that controls for biases in the level of education and finance knowledge, there is evidence that when individuals have the same level of education, irrespective of their knowledge of finance, women are no more risk-averse than their male counterparts. However, the gender-risk aversion relation is also a function of age, income, wealth, marital status, race/ethnicity and the number of children in the household. The second essay entitled, “Can diversification be learned?” investigates if investors who have superior investment knowledge are more likely to actively seek diversification benefits and are less prone to allocation biases. Results of cross-sectional analyses suggest that knowledge of finance increases the likelihood that an investor will efficiently allocate his direct investments across the major asset classes; invest in foreign assets; and hold a diversified equity portfolio. However, there is no evidence that investors who are more financially sophisticated make superior allocation decisions in their retirement savings. The final essay entitled, “The demographics of non-participation”, examines the factors that affect the decision not to hold stocks. The results of probit regression models indicate that when individuals are highly educated, the decision to not participate in the stock market is less related to demographic factors. In particular, when individuals have attained at least a college degree and have advanced knowledge of finance, they are significantly more likely to invest in equities either directly or indirectly through mutual funds or their retirement savings. There is also evidence that the decision not to hold stocks is motivated by short-term market expectations and the most recent investment experience. The findings of these essays should increase the body of research that seeks to reconcile what investors actually do (positive theory) with what traditional theories of finance predict that investors should do (normative theory).





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