Faculty Publications

Title

Emerging Market Pension Funds and International Diversification

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Fall 2011

DOI

10.1353/jda.2011.0009

Abstract

Many countries are currently increasing the advanced funding of their public pension systems to improve their sustainability in the face of rapidly aging populations. When pensions are funded, the issue of asset allocation becomes of paramount importance. Standard portfolio selection theory provides a fundamental justification for international diversification: by widening the pool of potential assets, investors can potentially increase returns while possibly even reducing risks through the selection of complementary assets with low correlations. Nonetheless, many emerging market countries have regulations that strictly limit the choice of investments for pension funds, in some cases excluding international assets entirely. This paper uses modern portfolio theory to determine the optimal asset allocation for public pension systems in emerging market countries. We find that on average, about half of the portfolios of emerging market countries should be in world assets. The paper then quantifies the costs of prohibiting international diversification.