Research / Journal ArticleDec 14, 2020

Robust Identification of Investor Beliefs

Xiaohong Chen, Lars Peter Hansen, Peter G. Hansen

This paper develops a method informed by data and models to recover information about investor beliefs. Our approach uses information embedded in forward-looking asset prices in conjunction with asset pricing models. We step back from presuming rational expectations and entertain potential belief distortions bounded by a statistical measure of discrepancy. Additionally, our method allows for the direct use of sparse survey evidence to make these bounds more informative. Within our framework, market-implied beliefs may differ from those implied by rational expectations due to behavioral/psychological biases of investors, ambiguity aversion, or omitted permanent components to valuation. Formally, we represent evidence about investor beliefs using a nonlinear expectation function deduced using model-implied moment conditions and bounds on statistical divergence. We illustrate our method with a prototypical example from macrofinance using asset market data to infer belief restrictions for macroeconomic growth rates.

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