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Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem

  • Author(s): Rabin, Matthew
  • et al.
Abstract

Within the expected-utility framework, the only explanation for risk aversion is that the utility function for wealth is concave: A person has lower marginal utility for additional wealth when she is wealthy than when she is poor. This paper provides a theorem showing that expected-utility theory is an utterly implausible explanation for appreciable risk aversion over modest stakes: Within expected-utility theory, for any concave utility function, even very little risk aversion over modest stakes implies an absurd degree of risk aversion over large stakes. Illustrative calibrations are provided.

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