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Land of Addicts? An Empirical Investigation of Habit-Based Asset Pricing Models

Authors: Chen, Xiaohong
Ludvigson, Sydney C.
Issue Date: 18-Feb-2008
Series/Report no.: S-MF-04-09
Abstract: A popular explanation of aggregate stock market behavior suggests that assets are priced as if there were a representative investor whose utility is a power function of the difference between aggregate consumption and a “habit” level, where the habit is some function of lagged and (possibly) contemporaneous consumption. But theory does not provide precise guidelines about the parametric functional relationship between the habit and aggregate consumption. This makes for- mal estimation and testing challenging; at the same time, it raises an empirical question about the functional form of the habit that best explains asset pricing data. This paper studies the ability of a general class of habit-based asset pricing models to match the conditional moment restrictions implied by asset pricing theory. Our approach is to treat the functional form of the habit as unknown, and to estimate it along with the rest of the model’s finite dimensional parameters. This semiparametric approach allows us to empirically evaluate a number of interesting hypotheses about the specification of habit-based asset pricing models. Using stationary quarterly data on consumption growth, assets returns and instruments, our empirical results indicate that the estimated habit function is nonlinear, the habit formation is internal, and the estimated time-preference parameter and the power utility parameter are sensible. In addition, our estimated habit function generates a positive stochastic discount factor (SDF) proxy and performs well in explaining cross-sectional stock return data. We find that an internal habit SDF proxy can explain a cross-section of size and book-market sorted portfolio equity returns better than (i) the Fama and French (1993) three-factor model, (ii) the Lettau and Ludvigson (2001b) scaled consumption CAPM model, (iii) an external habit SDF proxy, (iv) the classic CAPM, and (v) the classic consumption CAPM.
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