August 2008

Temporal Risk Aversion and Asset Prices

Skander J. Van den Heuvel


Agents with standard, time-separable preferences do not care about the temporal distribution of risk. This is a strong assumption. For example, it seems plausible that a consumer may find persistent shocks to consumption less desirable than uncorrelated fluctuations. Such a consumer is said to exhibit temporal risk aversion. This paper examines the implications of temporal risk aversion for asset prices. The innovation is to work with expected utility preferences that (i) are not time-separable, (ii) exhibit temporal risk aversion, (iii) separate risk aversion from the intertemporal elasticity of substitution, (iv) separate short-run from long-run risk aversion and (v) yield stationary asset pricing implications in the context of an endowment economy. Closed form solutions are derived for the equity premium and the risk free rate. The equity premium depends only on a parameter indexing long-run risk aversion. The risk-free rate instead depends primarily on a separate parameter indexing the desire to smooth consumption over time and the rate of time preference.

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Keywords: Temporal risk aversion, intertemporal substitution, equity premium, risk free rate

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Last Update: October 19, 2020