Friday, 20 February 2015

The vanishing ability to take risks

These graphs are taken from an excellent new working paper [pdf] by Stephanie Schurer that analyses risk attitudes on a very large - 135K people - German sample and can thus make do with the "life experience" generational problem (e.g. people that came of age during an economic downturn tend to be more risk-averse) that plagues smaller samples. So, basically, we now have a fairly clear idea of what people's appetite for risk is throughout their adult life, and, in view of present demographic trends, there is nothing here for anyone to celebrate.

The obvious consequence is that the greying of rich, western societies is going to lead to a diminishing ability to innovate and disrupt, and thus to probably fewer productivity gains (*).

But wait, the worst is to come: there is little hope of being rescued in that respect by emerging economies, as risk appetency is also hugely correlated with both income and education.

Secular stagnation, here we come?

(*) There have been numerous papers these last few years purporting to show that there is no empirical link between a workforce's age and its productivity, which I find somewhat, er, baffling.

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