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Implications of Homeownership for Endogenous Risk Aversion, Asset Pricing and Portfolio Composition

Abstract

The dissertation studies the role of housing in asset pricing and household asset allocation. Housing is unique in the sense that it is both an asset and a consumption good. In addition, any adjustment in housing consumption will incur a non-convex adjustment cost. This makes housing adjustment infrequent. Due to these unique characteristics, the role of housing in a household portfolio is quite different from financial assets such as stocks and bonds. The first chapter, "The Housing CCAPM with Adjustment Costs and Heterogeneous Agents" examines how the inclusion of housing consumption in the utility function can increase the volatility and countercyclicality of the stochastic discount factor and thus help explain a higher level of equity premium despite only moderate curvature of the utility function. The keys to better performance of the model are (i) existence of the adjustment cost (ii) non-separability between housing goods and nondurable goods in the utility function and (iii) low substitutability between housing consumption and nondurable consumption. It is also shown that the housing CCAPM performs better than a standard CCAPM in explaining the variation of cross-sectional risk premia. Chapter 2, "Implications of the Housing Market for Endogenous Risk Aversion" studies household portfolio choice in a partial equilibrium model with housing consumption, adjustment costs, and varying housing prices. It is shown that household relative risk aversion is dependent on their house value to wealth ratio. Therefore, by changing the household's house value to wealth ratio, variation in house prices can affect household stock holdings through a change in household risk aversion. In addition, the model has two specific implications for households. The first is that volatile house price dynamics leads to more frequent moving. The second is that household moving leads to higher relative risk aversion. In general equilibrium, these effects would imply that volatile housing prices can lead to a higher moving frequency and thus result in a higher level of aggregate risk aversion, which would increase the price of risk in the risky asset markets. We provide empirical evidence that there is a high correlation between housing price volatility and the price of risk. Chapter 3, "Implications of the Housing Model for Moving Frequency, Relative Risk Aversion and the Portfolio Share of Risky Assets" tests the implications of the household portfolio choice model developed in Chapter 2 using household level data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and finds that the empirical evidence is consistent with the model. Firstly, we use cross-sectional variation in state level house prices and household moving to study the relationship between the volatility of house prices and moving frequency. Secondly, we use household moving and portfolio data to study the effect of moving on risk aversion. In addition, Chapter 3 also studies the effect of becoming unemployed on household moving by solving a model with housing consumption, adjustment costs, and a stochastic labor income process. The result suggests that the overall effect of unemployment is to reduce the frequency of moving. In addition, a sudden shift to an unemployed status can increase household risk aversion. Thus in general equilibrium, we would expect that a higher unemployment rate will increase economy wide risk aversion, which will in turn decrease the demand for stocks and increase the risk premium required. This provides a new channel (through the change in risk aversion) for the unemployment rate to affect asset prices

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