Participation Constraints in the Stock Market: Evidence from the Unexpected Inheritance Due to Sudden Death

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We use a natural experiment to investigate the impact of participation constraints on individuals' decisions to invest in the stock market. Unexpected inheritance due to sudden deaths results in exogenous variation in financial wealth, and allows us to examine whether fixed entry and ongoing participation costs cause non-participation. We have three key findings. First, windfall wealth has a positive effect on participation. Second, the majority of households do not react to sizeable windfalls by entering the stock market, but hold on to substantial safe assets—even over longer horizons. Third, the majority of households inheriting stock holdings actively sell the entire portfolio. Overall, these findings suggest that participation by many individuals is unlikely to be constrained by financial participation costs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalReview of Financial Studies
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1667-1697
Publication statusPublished - May 2011

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