Why are dividends sticky?



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Texas A&M University


This dissertation investigates the sluggish adjustment process of dividend payment in the stock market. First, I focus on the individual stocks. A casual investigation of observed dividends for individual stocks shows dividend adjustments are sluggish and discrete; this is not consistent with the Lintner??s stylized fact (1956) in which dividend adjustments are assumed to change continuously. Thus, I examine three possible explanations to account for dividend stickiness and discreteness: menu-costs (i.e. a constant adjustment cost), decision-making delays, and dividend adjustment asymmetry. I reject Dixit??s menu-cost model as an appropriate specification for the sluggish adjustment process of dividends. The empirical results imply that decisionmaking delays and dividend adjustment asymmetry might be possible explanations for sticky and discrete dividends on selected individual stocks. Second, I focus on the aggregate stock market. I use a quadratic adjustment cost model to examine whether adjustment costs can explain the slow adjustment of aggregate dividends. The empirical results suggest that adjustment costs might be a significant factor explaining the slow dividend adjustment for S&P 500. The value of relative weigh cost is related to the specification of target dividend. If target dividendsare related to earnings, then the empirical results suggest that the adjustment costs are about forty-fold more important than the deviation cost between the actual dividend and the target level in determining the dynamic dividend adjustment process. If target dividends are specified as proportion to the stock prices, the adjustment costs are about fourteen-fold more important than the deviation cost between actual dividend and target level when managers determine the dividends.