Earmarking Risk: Relational Investing and Portfolio Choice

Social Forces, 99(3):1086-1112. (w/Rourke O’Brien)


Ordinary individuals are increasingly charged with making investment decisions not only for themselves but also for close others. A child’s college savings account and a spouse’s retirement savings are instances where investing has become unmistakably relational. In this paper, we posit a theory of relational investing that extends Zelizer’s relational perspective from the domain of transactions to that of financial risk-taking. Through two original survey experiments, we demonstrate that (1) individuals are less risky with dollars earmarked for others, (2) risk tolerance varies as a function of for whom the dollars are earmarked, and and (3) labeling accounts for culturally significant life-stage events …