In fifteen European countries, China, and the US, stocks and business equity as a share of total household assets are represented by an increasing and convex function of income/wealth. A parsimonious model fitted to the data shows why background labor-income risk can explain much of this risk-taking pattern. Uncontrollable labor-income risk stresses middle-income households more because labor income is a larger fraction of their total lifetime resources compared with the rich. In response, middle-income households reduce (controllable) financial risk. Richer households, having less pressure, can afford more risk-taking. The poor take low risk because they avoid jeopardizing their subsistence consumption.
background risk household-portfolio shares business equity subsistence consumption wealth inequality