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This article focuses on the effect of race and ethnicity on financial risk tolerance. Blacks and Hispanics are less likely to be willing to take some financial risk but more likely to be willing to take substantial financial risk than Whites, after controlling for the effects of other variables. Risk attitudes may affect investment behavior, so having an appropriate willingness to take financial risk is important in achieving investment goals. Government agencies and financial educators should target investor education on investments and financial risk to racial and ethnic groups in order to promote better choices for investing for financial goals.
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The Financial Risk Tolerance of Blacks, Hispanics and Whites
Rui Yao1, Michael S. Gutter2, and Sherman D. Hanna3
1 Rui Yao, Assistant Professor, South Dakota State University, Department of Human Development, Consumer and Family Sciences, NFA 311, Box
2275A, Brookings, SD 57007. Phone: 605-688-5009. Fax: 605-688-4888. E-mail: rui_yao@yahoo.com
2 Michael S. Gutter, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Consumer Science, 1300 Linden Dr, Madison, WI 53706.
Phone: 608-262-5498. Fax: 608-265-6048. Email: msgutter@wisc.edu
3 Sherman D. Hanna, Professor, Consumer Sciences Department, The Ohio State University, 1787 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210. E-mail:
hanna.1@osu.edu
The authors thank Suzanne Lindamood for insights related to use of the Survey of Consumer Finances datasets.
This article focuses on the effect of race and ethnicity on financial risk tolerance. Blacks and
Hispanics are less likely to be willing to take some financial risk but more likely to be willing to
take substantial financial risk than Whites, after controlling for the effects of other variables. Risk
attitudes may affect investment behavior, so having an appropriate willingness to take financial risk
is important in achieving investment goals. Government agencies and financial educators should
target investor education on investments and financial risk to racial and ethnic groups in order to
promote better choices for investing for financial goals.
Keywords: Financial Risk tolerance; Race; Ethnicity; Preferences; Survey of Consumer Finances
Introduction
Personal savings and investment behavior has become
an increasingly important issue facing households in
the U.S., as employers switch from defined benefit
plans to defined contribution plans and many worry
about the future Social Security payouts. As investment
choices become ever more important in retirement
well-being, differences between racial and ethnic
groups in these choices may be important. Historically,
Whites have had more financial wealth than minorities
(Darity, 1999). In 1992, the mean net worth for White
households was 2.9 times the mean net worth for non-
White households, but in 2001, the mean net worth for
White households was 4.2 times that of non-White
households, so minorities actually lost ground relative
to White households (Aizcorbe, Kennickell, & Moore,
2003, Table 3). Keister (2000) attributed some of this
inequality between races to the composition of wealth
because different assets provide different returns.
Stocks have produced higher returns compared to other
investments in the long run (Ibbotson Associates,
2003). Until recently, most U.S. households did not
hold stocks (Haliassos & Bertaut 1995), and now a slim
majority of (52%) of U.S. households own stocks
directly or indirectly through mutual funds (Aizcorbe,
et al., 2003).
Because Blacks and Hispanics are less likely than
Whites to own stocks (Bertaut & Starr-McCluer 2000),
it is likely that the wealth of Black and Hispanic
households may grow at a slower rate than Whites.
This would lead to a continuation of the inequality in
the distribution of wealth. There are various constraints
on ownership of risky assets, including low income, so
it is difficult to predict future investment behavior from
past behavior. However, an attitudinal measure of
financial risk tolerance may provide insights into future
behavior.
Investment choices can make a huge difference in
retirement adequacy. For instance, a 25-year-old
worker contributing $3,000 per year in constant dollars
to an IRA for 40 years might accumulate over a million
dollars with a stock fund and less than $210,000 with a
government bond fund.a People with inappropriately
low financial risk tolerance might suffer in retirement.
On the other hand, investing too aggressively for short-
term goals increases one’s exposure to large losses.
Previous research shows that demographic
characteristics, economic characteristics, and
expectations/opinions have significant effects on
financial risk tolerance. We focus on the expressed risk
tolerance of Hispanics and Blacks compared to Whites
because of the implications of investment behavior for
future wealth differences and the possible implications
of this research to improving our understanding of
effective financial education programs.
The purpose of this research is to examine the
relationship between financial risk tolerance and race
and ethnicity. The study uses multiple years of the
Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) in order to
increase the sample size for the different racial and
ethnic groups, allowing for more robust estimation of
effects of race and ethnicity on financial risk tolerance.
In addition, this study uses a cumulative logistic
technique, which is more appropriate for the multi-level
naturally ordered dependent variable and has not yet
been used to examine the issue of race and ethnicity
and financial risk tolerance.
Financial Counseling and Planning Volume 16 (1), 2005
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Background
This section reviews literature explaining the concept
and measurement of financial risk tolerance and covers
previous research focusing on the relationship between
financial risk tolerance and race and ethnicity.
The Concept of Financial Risk Tolerance
The Arrow-Pratt theory of risk aversion includes
measures of risk aversion in individual decision-
making under risk. For rational decision makers, the
proportion of wealth invested in risky assets will be
lower for those with higher risk aversion (Pratt, 1964;
Arrow, 1965). Some researchers have proposed that
risk tolerance is the inverse of risk aversion (Brennan &
Kraus 1976; Walls & Dyer 1996; Barsky, Juster,
Kimball, & Shapiro 1997; Gron & Winton 2001).
Grable (2000) stated that financial risk tolerance is “the
maximum amount of uncertainty that someone is
willing to accept when making a financial decision.” In
this paper, financial risk tolerance is defined as the
willingness to take financial risk.
Financial risk tolerance has been measured using
several techniques. The techniques can be separated
into measures based on observing risky behavior and
measures using surveys to ask questions that gauge
one’s willingness to assume risk in given situations
(Hanna, Gutter, & Fan 2001; Hanna & Lindamood,
2004). Some studies infer financial risk tolerance from
behavior such as ownership of risky assets or the ratio
of risky assets to total wealth (Cohn, Lewellen, Lease,
& Schlarbaum 1975; Friend & Blume, 1975; Fama &
Schwert, 1977; Morin & Suarez, 1983; McInish,
Ramaswami, & Srivastava, 1993; Schooley & Worden
1996). However, studies based on behavior often are
influenced by self-selection bias and do not typically
consider other factors that would prevent ownership
such as financial constraints, discrimination or lack of
exposure to information about financial markets. The
Health and Retirement Survey posed hypothetical
scenarios to obtain a measure of financial risk tolerance
related to the economic concept of risk aversion
(Barsky et al., 1997). Grable (2000) presented a
combination of investment choices and subjective
perceptions.
Financial Risk Tolerance and Race/Ethnicity
Several studies on financial risk tolerance have
investigated the effect of race and ethnicity, but few
have had a focus on the effect of race/ethnicity. These
studies vary by the measurement of financial risk
tolerance used. The majority of studies use
observational measures based on asset ownership and
the proportion of overall wealth allocated to risky
investment assets such as stocks or small businesses.
Regardless of the financial risk tolerance measurement,
the consensus from previous studies is that White
households are more risk tolerant than otherwise
similar non-White households.
Haliassos and Bertaut (1995) and Bertaut and Starr-
McCluer (2000) used data from the SCF datasets to
study the ownership of risky assets. They found that
everything else being equal, Whites are more likely to
own stocks than their otherwise similar non-White
counterparts. Zhong and Xiao (1995) and Plath and
Stevenson (2000) examined ownership of different
investment assets. Zhong and Xiao found that all other
things being equal, Whites have higher holdings of
stock and bonds than non-Whites (including Hispanics,
Blacks, and other races combined into one category).
Plath and Stevenson found that Black households hold
a higher proportion of low-yield financial assets and a
lower proportion of stocks and bonds. Using the 1995
SCF, Gutter, Fox and Montalto (1999) studied racial
differences in the probability of holding stocks and/or
business assets. The authors found that White
households are more likely to own risky assets than
Black households, but the effect of race could be
somewhat explained through race’s relationships to
other determinants of financial risk tolerance,
specifically the presence of children and household
size, both indicators of life cycle stage. Coleman (2003)
examined the percentage of net worth allocated to risky
assets such as stocks, and found that that the inclusion
of net worth negates the effect of race, but not of
Hispanic ethnicity, as Hispanics have a lower
proportion of net worth allocated to risky assets.
Several studies have used subjective or situational
measures of financial risk tolerance. Using the 1992
SCF, Sung and Hanna (1996) studied factors related to
the SCF financial risk tolerance variable, coded as
willing to take some risk versus not willing to take any
risk. They found that Whites have higher financial risk
tolerance than otherwise similar Hispanics and
respondents of other races. Grable and Joo (1999)
conducted a survey of 500 white-collar clerical workers
to investigate the determinants of a financial risk
tolerance measure. The authors found that financial risk
tolerance is lower for Whites compared to non-Whites.
Coleman (2003) compared categorizations of the SCF
financial risk tolerance measure to actual investment
behavior. According to Coleman (2003), Blacks and
Hispanics are less likely to be willing to take high
financial risks and are more likely to prefer to take no
financial risks than otherwise similar Whites. The
results differ when net worth is added to the model, as
being Blackdoes not have significant impact on
willingness to take risk whencontrolling for net worth.
Hispanics, however, are still more likely to bein the no
risk category than Whites when net worth is controlled.
Financial Risk Tolerance
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Preferences and Race/Ethnicity
The previous sections highlight the significance of race
and ethnicity as a preference shifter. This section
provides the rationale and meaning of race and
ethnicity in studies of financial behavior. Race and
ethnicity can be representative of both cultural
influences and barriers to access in financial markets.
In this study of preferences, race and ethnicity, when
controlling for other factors, may be representative of
an individual’s culture. Henslin (2002) defined culture
as “the language, beliefs, values, norms behaviors, and
even material objects that are passed from one
generation to the next.” Semmes (1981) explained the
important effect of culture on preferences and
perceptions as well as the importance of history in
Black culture. Haliassos and Bertaut (1995) discussed
the possible influence of culture on investment choice.
One implication is that Blacks and Whites may have
different perceptions because of differences in the
choices available as well as the cultural belief system
used to guide these choices (Nobles, 1978; Sudarkasa,
1997). Burlew, Banks, McAdoo and Azibo (1992)
suggested that a common goal among Blacks is to have
a standard of living comparable to their peers, both
Whites and Blacks. This goal might lead to a lower
emphasis on savings. A common theme from literature
on Hispanic culture has been that one does not show
signs of weakness (Casa, Wagenheim, Banchero, &
Mendoza-Romero, 1994). Individuals whose values
include an image of strength may be more willing to
accept risk, as risk avoidance may be seen as a sign of
weakness. The extent to which this or any cultural
value influences preferences may relate to the level of
acculturation or the changing of cultural values through
exposure to a surrounding culture that an individual has
experienced (Ogden, Ogden, & Schau, 2004). There is
a large proportion within the Hispanic population with
limited acculturation and likely less exposure to
financial markets and concepts, as over half of the
foreign born Hispanics in the US in 2002 had been in
the US less than 12 years (Malone, Baluja, Costanzo, &
Davis, 2003; Ramirez & de la Cruz, 2003).
Exposure to Financial Information and Race/Ethnicity
As mentioned previously, White households have a
mean level of net worth 4.2 times as high as that of
non-White households (Aizcorbe, et al., 2003). One
possible outcome of a history of lower financial
resources is that it is likely marketing of financial
products has been targeted at Whites, so that members
of minority groups have received less exposure to
information about investments and are less likely to
participate in financial markets. A report by the
Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies
discussed the need for increased spending and resource
allocation to reach the Hispanic population (2002)
because past marketing efforts have underserved this
group. Most (57%) unbanked households are
minorities, 23% of which stated their reason for not
working with a bank as "do not like dealing with
banks", which could mean that the unbanked
households do not trust banks and therefore, do not
want to take the risk to open a bank account.
The Present Study
Life cycle stage, financial status and other household
demographics should influence the willingness to take
financial risk (Campbell & Viceira, 2002). This study
focuses on the willingness to take financial risk rather
than portfolio allocation because financial risk
tolerance may predict future financial behavior better
than current portfolio allocation, especially for
disadvantaged groups with no current investments. The
SCF measure of willingness to take financial risk and
the measures obtained from hypothetical scenarios are
based on respondents’ expectations instead of their
behavior and so are more reasonable; because
households that do not own investment assets can still
select the level of financial risk tolerance that they
would be most likely to take if they had money to
invest.
Ogden et al. (2004) suggested that subculture, which
may be represented by race or ethnicity, might impact
preferences. Race and ethnicity is representative of the
shared history and values of a group and, thus, should
impact financial preferences. Differences in cultural
values and socialization among different racial and
ethnic groups might also influence preferences such as
willingness to take risk (Dilworth-Anderson, Burton, &
Johnson, 1993); thus, race and ethnicity should
influence the willingness to take risk.
In this paper, financial risk tolerance is defined as the
willingness to take financial risk. Risk aversion does
have an inverse relationship with risk tolerance, but
risk tolerance is also influenced by other factors such as
market expectations and life cycle characteristics. We
propose that race and ethnic status influence the
willingness to take financial risk and thus portfolio
choice directly and indirectly, as a moderating variable
for other determinants. Figure 1 shows the proposed
conceptual model. Risk aversion might be a stable
preference. Barsky et al. (1997), Hanna et al. (2001)
and Hanna and Lindamood (2004) used an age-
independent set of hypothetical questions to measure
risk aversion. Willingness to take financial risks should
be related to both stable preferences and situational
factors such as the life cycle stage. Expectations about
the market should influence willingness to take risk.
These expectations about the market might differ by
race and ethnicity since exposure and use of
information may differ by race and ethnicity; however,
determining market expectations may be problematic.
Financial Counseling and Planning Volume 16 (1), 2005
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It is possible that households with less stability from
labor market earnings may be less willing to take risks
with investments for short-term investments, but should
be willing to take some risks for long-term investments.
By controlling for employment status, income, age, and
other variables, race and ethnic status might have
effects only through market expectations.
Hypotheses: Effects of Race and Ethnicity
The cultural experiences, values, and socialization of
minorities should impact their preferences. In
particular, a history of less exposure to financial
markets and financial information, greater labor force
participation instability (Hsueh & Tienda, 1996),
discrimination, having lower levels of wealth likely to
make Hispanics and Blacks less willing to take
(Kennickell, Starr-Mcluer, & Surette, 2000; Aizcorbe,
et al., 2003) and differences in family composition are
financial risks. Therefore, it is expected that Whites
have higher financial risk tolerance than other groups.
Hispanics should have lower financial risk tolerance
than Blacks because many Hispanics have a language
barrier and for some, having families who have been in
the United States a shorter time might make them less
comfortable with financial investments. Some
differences might be related to other factors such as
education, income, and age, but if significant
differences remain after controlling for these factors in
multivariate analyses, the cultural explanation will be
plausible.
Figure 1
Conceptual Relationship of Race and Ethnicity on Risk Preferences and Portfolio Behavior
Data and Methods
Data
This paper uses a combination of the 1983, 1989, 1992,
1995, 1998, and 2001 Survey of Consumer Finances
(SCF) datasets.b Weights were computed and provided
for use by the Federal Reserve in the datasets for each
observation to adjust for systematic differences in
response rates by demographic groups, as well as to
adjust for the sample design. The descriptive analyses
reported in this article are weighted by the authors, but
the multivariate analyses are not.c
All SCF datasets except for the 1983 SCF contain five
implicates.d All five implicates for the 1989, 1992,
1995, 1998 and 2001 datasets plus the 1983 dataset are
pooled together. This article excludes same sex couples
and same sex partners that live together, because such
households are identified only in the 1992, 1995, 1998,
and 2001 datasets, plus one such household in 1989.
This article also excludes households categorized as a
racial and ethnic group listed as “Other” in the public
dataset. (See discussion in ‘Independent Variables’.)
The total sample size used in the analyses is 23,243.
Variables
Dependent Variable The dependent variable used in
this study is based on the response to the SCF’s
financial risk tolerance question. The question is as
follows (Kennickell, 2001):
“Which of the statements on this page comes closest to
the amount of financial risk that you and your
(spouse/partner) are willing to take when you save or
make investments?
1. take substantial financial risks expecting to earn
substantial returns
2. take above average financial risks expecting to earn
above average returns
3. take average financial risks expecting to earn
average returns
4. not willing to take any financial risks”
Portfolio
allocation
Life Cycle Stage/
Horizon, Education,
Financial status; other
factors
Market Expectations
Race and
Ethnicity
Willingness to
take risk
Risk Aversion
Financial Risk Tolerance
©2005, Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved 55
This study uses responses to create two additional
financial risk tolerance categories, high risk and some
risk. High risk includes substantial and above average
SCF financial risk tolerance. Some risk includes the
substantial, above average, and average SCF financial
risk tolerance. The two new variables as well as
substantial risk served as the dummy dependent
variables are in the cumulative logistic regression
analysis, which will be discussed in statistical methods.
Independent Variables In addition to race and
ethnicity, other independent variables, including
demographic characteristics, financial characteristics,
and opinions/attitudes, are used to control for other
possible influences on financial risk tolerance. All
independent variables are categorical variables, except
for age of respondent, household income, and level of
non-financial assets.
The analyses in this article use the race and ethnicity,
age, gender, education, employment status, and health
condition variables of the actual respondent, not the
household head. For the public datasets, the race and
ethnicity variable includes four categories: White,
Black, Hispanic/Latino, and other races. The
determination of race and ethnicity has varied over the
years, especially for the other race and ethnicity
categories, as discussed in the Appendix. The groups
included in the other race and ethnicity category in the
public dataset are very diverse.
The SCF public use datasets combine those Asian,
American Indian, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiian,
and Pacific Islanders householders with the “other”
category. This catchall category represents a very
diverse set of peoples with different cultures.
Considering the diversity of groups being categorized
as “other” by the SCF, it is impossible to determine the
cultural backgrounds of such households. In limiting
the study to Hispanics, Blacks, and Whites, the
relationship of race and ethnicity can be better
examined.
Demographic variables included: age, education, race
and ethnicity, household type, presence of related
children, employment status, and home ownership.
Economic variables included whether monetary assets
exceed three months’ income, level of non-financial
assets, and level of income. Household incomes and
amount of non-financial assets are inflation-adjusted by
multiplying the ratio of the Consumer Price Index in
2000 to the Consumer Price Index in the year before
the interview. The log of income and the log of non-
financial assets are used in the analyses.
The opinion/attitude variables included whether the
respondent expected to receive substantial inheritance
or transfer of assets in the future and self-perceived
health condition.
Statistical Methods
Cross-tabulations of financial risk tolerance levels and
race and ethnicity groups were performed to examine
the percent distribution across the risk categories for
different race and ethnicity groups; and one-tailed z-
tests were calculated to examine the significance of the
differences between all race and ethnicity groups.
A cumulative logit model is used in this analysis. The
model allows the independent variables to have
different effects on risk preference. The cumulative
logit model examines the effects of explanatory
variables on the probability for households to choose
some risk versus no risk, high risk (including
substantial and above average risk) versus low risk
(average or no risk), and substantial risk only versus
lower levels of risk. Cumulative logistic regression is a
better fit for this study since the SCF financial risk
tolerance has a natural order. It also allows for
distinction between different levels of risk tolerance, an
advantage over previous studies using binary logistic
models (Sung & Hanna, 1996) and multinomial models
(Shaw, 1996; Sundén & Surette, 1998).
Table 1
Percent Indicating Each Level of Financial Risk
Tolerance by Race and Ethnicity
Whites Blacks Hispanics
None*+‡ 40.6% 57.0% 63.9%
Average*+‡ 40.6% 28.5% 20.5%
Above Average*+ 14.8% 9.7% 9.5%
Substantial*+‡ 4.0% 4.8% 6.1%
High*+‡ 18.8% 14.5% 15.6%
Some*+‡ 59.4% 43.0% 36.1%
Number of Households 18,628 3,029 1,586
Weighted results, using RII technique, with 1983, 1989, 1992, 1995,
1998 and 2001 Survey of Consumer Finances.
Note: one-tailed z--tests are performed to test the significance of the
differences between the race and ethnicity groups.
* Results significantly different for Whites and Hispanics, at the
.05 level or better.
+ Results significantly different for Whites and Blacks, at the .05
level or better.
‡ Results significantly different for Hispanics and Blacks, at
the.05 level or better.
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Table 2
Hypothesis Tests, Effect of Race and Ethnicity on
Financial Risk Tolerance
Financial Risk
tolerance levels Z-tests results Logit results
Substantial
Not accepted:
Hispanics = Blacks >
Whites
Not accepted:
Hispanics = Blacks >
Whites
High
Partially Accepted:
Whites > Hispanics =
Blacks
Not accepted:
Hispanics = Blacks =
Whites
Some
Accepted:
Whites > Blacks >
Hispanics
Accepted:
Whites > Blacks >
Hispanics
>: Significantly greater at the .05 level or better
=: Not significantly different at the .05 level
Results
Table 1 shows the descriptive statistics of financial risk
tolerance levels by race and ethnicity. White
respondents are significantly more likely to be willing
to take some risk (59%) than are Blacks (43%), who
are significantly more likely to be willing to take some
risk than Hispanics (36%). However, the pattern is
reversed for willingness to take substantial risk, with
only 4% of Whites but 5% of Blacks and 6% of
Hispanics willing to take substantial risk. The
hypotheses are confirmed for substantial risk. Table 2
summarizes the hypothesis tests. Based on the z-tests,
Whites are significantly more likely than Blacks, and
Blacks are significantly more likely than Hispanics to
be willing to take some financial risks. For substantial
risk, the results are the opposite of the hypotheses, as
Whites are significantly less likely than Blacks and
Hispanics to be willing to take substantial financial
risks; and the difference between Hispanics and Blacks
is not significant. For high risk, the hypothesis that
Whites are more likely to be willing to take risks than
the other two groups is confirmed, but Hispanics are as
willing to take high risks as Blacks.
Logistic Results
The odds ratios from the logistic regressions (Table 3)
indicate the relative effect at the mean values of other
variables on the likelihood of the level of risk. Blacks
are only 84% as likely, and Hispanics are only 53% as
likely as otherwise similar Whites to be willing to take
some risk. However, Blacks are 1.3 times as likely, and
Hispanics are 1.4 times as likely as otherwise similar
Whites to be willing to take substantial risk. The
significance levels shown for most variables in Table 3
are only in comparison to the reference categories,
which for race/ethnic group is White. Separate tests
were run to test the significance of financial risk
tolerance differences between Blacks and Hispanics,
and the results are summarized in Table 2. Controlling
for everything else in the model, the difference
between Blacks and Hispanics is not significant for
willingness to take substantial risk or in willingness to
take high risk. Blacks are significantly more likely than
Hispanics to be willing to take some risk.
On average, a year of age is associated with about a 2%
decrease in the chance of being willing to take some,
high, or substantial risk. Married females are
significantly less likely to be willing to take risk at any
of the three levels than otherwise similar married
males. Unmarried males are more likely than
otherwise similar married males to be willing to take
substantial and high risk. Income, non-financial asset
levels, and being self-employed generally have
significant positive effects on the willingness to take
financial risk. Education, which is likely to be related
to familiarity with financial markets, has no significant
relationships with having substantial financial risk
tolerance, but has positive relationships with having
high and some financial risk tolerance.
Interaction terms between race and ethnicity and
survey years were also tested for significance. The
results show that the effect of race and ethnic group on
financial risk tolerance did not change over the years.e
Discussion
The conceptual model, illustrated in Figure 1,
highlights the determinants of willingness to take
financial risk. For example, it shows the ties from life
cycle characteristics, education, financial resources and
others to willingness to take risk as well as risk
aversion (Table 3.) The model does not explicitly
control for previous experience with financial
investments, but the lack of a relationship with being
willing to take substantial risk for either education or
income suggests that greater knowledge does not
increase the willingness to take substantial risks.
Therefore the positive relationship between having
minority status and being willing to take substantial
risks may be due to either differences in culture, as
previous discussed, or market expectations.
The reversal of the effect of being Black or Hispanic
on risk tolerance, with these groups being less likely to
be willing to take some risk but more likely to be
willing to take substantial risk, was found in both the
bivariate results (Table 1) and the multivariate results
(Table 3). Therefore, it is unlikely that the results are
the result of statistical quirks in the multivariate
analyses.g
Financial Risk Tolerance
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Table 3
Cumulative Logistic Analysis of the Likelihood of Being in a Higher Financial Risk Tolerance Level
Substantial risk High risk Some risk
Parameter Coefficient Odds ratio Coefficient Odds ratio Coefficient Odds ratio
Intercept -3.4405*** -2.7949*** -0.9076***
Race/Ethnic background: reference category = White
Black 0.2779** 1.32 0.0606 1.06 -0.1800*** 0.84
Hispanic 0.3236* 1.38 0.0123 1.01 -0.6284*** 0.53
Age -0.0162*** 0.98 -0.0223*** 0.98 -0.0213*** 0.98
Education: reference category = high school diploma
Less than a high school diploma -0.1428 0.87 -0.1654* 0.85 -0.4777*** 0.62
Some college 0.0560 1.06 0.3022*** 1.35 0.4676*** 1.60
Bachelor’s degree and above 0.1219 1.13 0.7144*** 2.04 1.0513*** 2.86
Household composition/gender: reference category = married males
Married females -0.3112*** 0.73 -0.5425*** 0.58 -0.5524*** 0.58
Unmarried females -0.1098 0.90 -0.4200*** 0.66 -0.6120*** 0.54
Unmarried males 0.4086*** 1.50 0.2100*** 1.23 -0.0163 0.98
Presence of related children under age 18 -0.0359 0.96 -0.0264 0.97 -0.1236** 0.88
Monetary assets >= 3 times monthly income 0.0645 1.07 0.0913* 1.10 0.4327*** 1.54
Log (non-financial assets) 0.0362*** 1.04 0.0455*** 1.05 0.0439*** 1.04
Log (annual household income) 0.0953*** 1.10 0.1545*** 1.17 0.1697*** 1.18
Employment status: reference category = Salary earners
Self-employed 0.6677*** 1.95 0.3567*** 1.43 0.3737*** 1.45
Not working 0.0911 1.10 -0.0089 0.99 0.0568 1.06
Retired -0.1136 0.89 -0.1266 0.88 -0.1575** 0.85
Homeowners: reference category = renters -0.1363 0.87 0.0084 1.01 0.1109* 1.12
Expect to receive substantial inheritance or transfer
of assets in the future -0.0482 0.95 0.1465*** 1.16 0.2216*** 1.25
Health: reference category = good health
Excellent health 0.1354* 1.15 0.1376*** 1.15 0.0653 1.07
Fair health 0.0650 1.07 -0.0991 0.91 -0.3056*** 0.74
Poor health 0.1917 1.21 -0.0103 0.99 -0.6127*** 0.54
Year of survey: reference category = 1983
Year 1989 -0.4065*** 0.67 -0.3526*** 0.70 -0.0892 0.91
Year 1992 -0.4307*** 0.65 -0.1261* 0.88 -0.1599** 0.85
Year 1995 -0.4002*** 0.67 0.1012 1.11 0.1247* 1.13
Year 1998 -0.2326* 0.79 0.4047*** 1.50 0.3812*** 1.46
Year 2001 -0.3150*** 0.73 0.3285*** 1.39 0.2835*** 1.33
Concordance 66.7% 74.3% 80.7%
Chi-square test of the likelihood ratio 2082.16 <.0001 14119.56 <.0001 28478.60 <.0001
* p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01, *** p < 0.001
Analysis of 1983, 1989, 1992, 1995, 1998 and 2001 Surveys of Consumer Finances; multivariate analyses are unweighted, using RII technique.
Financial Counseling and Planning Volume 16 (1), 2005
58 ©2005, Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
The model illustrates the importance that culture,
represented by race and ethnic status, has on the
financial decision making process. Culture provides a
context in which information is framed and preferences
are formed. The conceptual model ties the willingness
to take risk to portfolio allocation, which in turn will
impact the growth rate of wealth and overall wealth
accumulation. Wealth accumulation is one of the keys
to achieving financial security for households.
Households unwilling to take investment risks at all or
unwilling to take appropriate levels of risk may not
participate in investment markets at all. If they do
participate, they may invest too conservatively for their
situation. If there is an inequality in the dissemination
of information, this inequality would likely impact
willingness to take risk and subsequently portfolio
behavior.
As implied by Figure 1, race and ethnic status is related
to the willingness to take financial risk (financial risk
tolerance), although since information about market
expectations and risk aversion is not available, the
relationship is not clear. Hispanics and Blacks are less
likely than Whites to state that they are willing to take
some risk in investments. After controlling for other
factors, Whites are more likely to be willing to take
some risk than the other two groups. This finding is
consistent with the hypothesis and previous research
findings (Sung & Hanna, 1996; Gutter, et al., 1999;
Plath & Stevenson, 2000; Haliassos & Bertaut, 1995).
One possible explanation is that Whites are more
exposed to financial information from social
marketing, media, and financial services than are
minority groups. As expected, Blacks are more willing
to take some risks than Hispanics, which could be
related to differences in the level of acculturation for
the two subcultures. Compared to Blacks, Hispanics
are more likely to be foreign born and have been in the
country for a relatively short period of time, which may
imply there would be strong language barriers and
limited exposure to financial concepts. This lack of
familiarity would likely discourage willingness to
accept some financial risk.
Contrary to our hypothesis, Whites are significantly
less likely than Blacks and Hispanics to be willing to
take substantial risk, controlling for other factors.
There is not a significant difference between Hispanics
and Blacks in willingness to take substantial risk, and
there are no significant differences between the three
groups in willingness to take high financial risk,
controlling for other factors.
Whites are more likely than those in the other two
groups to be willing to take some risk, but less likely to
be willing to take substantial risk. There are several
possible explanations for this inconsistent pattern. One
reason may be related to the cultural role of Machismo.
Male Hispanics may state a willingness to assume
substantial risk as part of bravado. In an effort to
determine if the effect of gender and marital status
differed by race and ethnicity, interaction terms of race
and ethnicity and gender and marital status of the
respondent were added to the cumulative logit model.f
None of these terms were found to be significant.
Therefore, unless female Hispanics are influenced by
Machismo, this explanation is not very plausible.
The finding that Hispanics may tend to be at the
extremes of the financial risk tolerance measure could
be related to the large diversity of backgrounds within
the Hispanic category, as the true relationship of
ethnicity on preferences can be understood only with
more detailed information about background (Ogden,
et al., 2004). Unfortunately, the SCF datasets do not
include information about country of origin, family
financial history, and exposure to financial information
such as sources of investment risk, so we cannot assess
the plausibility of this explanation. The background
diversity explanation also does not seem especially
plausible in explaining the inconsistent pattern for
Blacks.
It is possible that some Hispanics and Blacks have a
strong desire to catch up in terms of standard of living.
This desire may make some more willing to accept
substantial risk to get ahead. This pattern poses
dangers, as investment scams often work by persuading
unsophisticated people of the possibility of substantial
gains. An additional consideration, however, is that
many will find themselves with little to lose. Therefore
conceptually the willingness to take risk to get ahead
may seem palatable to one who realistically has little at
stake.
Low participation in financial markets may explain
why Blacks and Hispanics are less likely than Whites
to be willing to take some financial risk. The majority
of households (57%) classified as unbanked are non-
White or Hispanic (Aizcorbe, et al., 2003). It is also
possible that Blacks and Hispanics are less likely to be
willing to take some financial risk because of their
labor force instability. Hsueh and Tienda (1996) found
that Blacks and Hispanics have greater labor force
instability than Whites. However, for long-term goals
such as retirement, everyone should be willing to take
some risk in order to have a reasonable return.
Furthermore, the greater willingness to take substantial
risk is not consistent with an explanation based on
labor force instability.
The lack of consistency of the effect of race and
ethnicity on substantial versus some financial risk
tolerance suggests that government agencies and
Financial Risk Tolerance
©2005, Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved 59
financial educators should target investor education to
minority groups. Employers can educate their
employees by periodically holding educational
seminars on retirement plans, investments, and
financial risk, and should consider making special
efforts to attract minority employees to seminars. This
way, minorities not reached by the government or
financial planners will have one more opportunity to
hear about investments and the associated risks. If
race/ethnicity is representative of cultural differences,
then financial education programming that is more
culturally relevant may be needed. Education may also
need to address fears and beliefs about trusting firms
with financial assets. The realities and history of
discrimination can be a barrier to taking action or
trusting different information sources. The financial
services industry should continue to increase the
diversity of its work force, as mistrust may reduce the
likelihood of minorities from taking advantage of
financial advice.
This paper is the first research to report a significant
difference in the SCF financial risk tolerance measure
between Hispanics and Blacks. This study is also the
first to report the reversal of race and ethnic effects for
some risk versus substantial risk. The large sample size
obtained by combining samples from different years
allows for more robust estimates from small effects.
Given that the overall rate of substantial risk is less
than 5%, it is reasonable that the effect was not
observed previously. Further research into the reversal
of effects is needed, as it might indicate both overly
conservative and overly risky investment strategies
among minority households.
As Keister (2000) suggested, the inequality of wealth is
an unresolved issue. Even though reducing the
inequality of income between racial and ethnic groups
will be needed to reduce the inequality of wealth,
investment choices will also play an important role in
reducing wealth inequality. The result of lower
willingness to take some risk for Hispanics and Blacks
compared to otherwise similar Whites suggests that
reductions of income inequality will not be sufficient to
achieve substantial reductions in wealth inequality
without changes in portfolio allocations. At the same
time, the result that Hispanics and Blacks are more
likely to be willing to take substantial risks than
otherwise similar Whites suggests that minorities might
be susceptible to investment scams. Clearly, financial
education targeted at minority groups is needed.
Appendix
The race and ethnicity question varied over the survey
years. The most recent version (1998 and 2001) was:
“Which of these categories do you feel best describe
you?”
Then a card was shown that had:
Please list your strongest identification first:
White
Black; African American
Hispanic; Latino
Asian
American Indian; Alaska Native; Native Hawaiian;
Other Pacific Islander
Other
In 1998 and 2001, the respondent was asked to give all
race and ethnicity answers that apply. The answers
were coded in the order they were given. In the public
dataset, there were only two pieces of information: the
respondent's first answer to the race and ethnicity
question; and whether there were more answers given
to the question (yes or no, without identifying which
ones were given). If the first response was Asian,
American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian,
Other Pacific Islander, or Other, then on the public
dataset the coding is Other.
In 1995, the question was:
Are you Native American, Asian, Hispanic, black,
white, or another race?
The interviewer showed a card that had:
Native American/Eskimo/Aleut
Asian or Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Black or African-American
White
Other
Only the first response of the race and ethnicity
question was coded. If the first response was Asian or
Pacific Islander, Native American/Eskimo/Aleut, or
Other, then in the public dataset the coding is “Other”.
In 1992, the question was:
Are you American Indian, Asian, Hispanic, black,
white, or another race?
The interviewer showed a card that had:
American Indian/Eskimo/Aleut
Asian
Hispanic
Black or African-American
White
Other
Financial Counseling and Planning Volume 16 (1), 2005
60 ©2005, Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
Only the first response of the race and ethnicity
question was coded. If the first response was American
Indian/Eskimo/Aleut, Asian, or Other, then in the
public dataset the coding is “Other”.
In 1989, the question was:
Are you American Indian, Asian, Hispanic, black,
white, or another race?
American Indian/Eskimo/Aleut
Asian
Hispanic
Black
White
Other
Only the first response of the race and ethnicity
question was coded. If the first response was American
Indian/Eskimo/Aleut, Asian, or Other, then in the
public dataset the coding is “Other”.
In 1983, the interviewers were instructed to categorize
respondents into one of the following groups:
Caucasian except Hispanic
Black except Hispanic
Hispanic
American Indian or Alaskan Native
Asian or Pacific Islander
The codebook indicated that “variable is the observed
race of the survey respondent.” It is not clear how
interviewers were instructed to obtain the information
if they could not judge by observation.
Endnotes
a. Assume contributions to either a large stock index
fund or an intermediate government bond fund.
Based on the arithmetic mean inflation-adjusted
return from 1926 to 2002 for large stocks (9.0%)
and for government intermediate bonds (2.6%) the
stock fund would accumulate to $1,013,649 and
the bond fund would accumulate to $206,753
(calculations by authors based on Ibbotson
Associates, 2003, page 113).
b. Some of the methodology follows the discussion
in Yao, Hanna, and Lindamood (2004); for more
detail see that article.
c. As Deaton (1997, pp. 66-73) suggests, weighting
regression analyses when the weights are
endogenous is suspect for hypotheses testing.
d. In 1983, the Federal Reserve assigned one value to
each missing value of a variable in 1983. Starting in
1989, missing values were imputed using a multiple
imputation method that resulted in five complete
data sets, or implicates, for each year. The
“repeated-imputation inference” (RII) method
results in a dataset with estimated variances that
more closely represent the true variances than
would be obtained by using just one implicate
(Kennickell & Woodburn, 1999), and is used for all
analyses in this article.
e. Results available from first author.
f. Results available from first author.
g. Based on comments by reviewers, we tried different
specifications of some of the independent variables,
as we had originally used sets of dummy variables
for age, income, and level of non-financial assets.
The effects of the Black and Hispanic variables on
risk tolerance remained virtually the same when we
replaced the dummy variables by continuous
variables.
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... An individual's physical composition has been studied by various international and national researchers similar to Barber and Odean [11] with an objective to govern its effect on FRT levels. Similar results have been explored by Gumede V. [97]; Metherell C. [160]; Ramudzuli and Muzindutsi [191]; Strydom and Metherell [234]; SulaimanE.K. [238] and Yao et al. [260] as well. ...
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