Despite the benefits of international diversification, the home equity bias phenomenon is well documented in the portfolio choice literature. The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether the same investment behavior applies to domestic socially responsible investments (SRIs) where ethical screenings should be the selection criteria.
The authors apply the model by Coval and Moskowitz (1999), Grinblatt and Keloharju (2001) and Agarwal and Hauswald (2010) to uncover the effect of distance relative to screenings on SRI domestic portfolio choice. For the first time, the authors test the robustness of distance effect by using time bias, which is the travel time between the fund manager and the company’s headquarter.
The authors find that SRIs exhibit a strong preference for locally headquartered firms. After controlling for screening activity and other fund characteristics, the authors still find a strong distance bias in SRI fund portfolio decision-making. The authors find that this bias is mostly observed in SRI fund with social screening and that fund holding characteristics determine the propensity of fund managers to invest locally. The results suggest that the local bias puzzle exists in SRI.
This study provides avenue for future research to examine whether the same local bias is found in SRI investment in other countries where they have different characteristics and behavior. Also, the evidence that local bias exists in SRI investment may need further analysis as to whether this is conflicting with the objectives of SRI, which focus more on ethical beliefs.
The results suggest that many local firms in the same city currently held by an SRI fund will not be held by this fund if it is in another city. The implications of the findings are that geographic proximity, along with ethical screenings, is an important dimension to how SRI fund invests.
This study is the first that examines local bias in SRI funds by using portfolio holding data.
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