Are Corporate Payouts Abnormally High in the 2000s?

Are Corporate Payouts Abnormally High in the 2000s?

Kathleen Kahle, René Stulz

Series number :

Serial Number: 

Date posted :

April 09 2020

Last revised :

April 09 2020
SSRN Share


  • payouts • 
  • Repurchases • 
  • dividends • 
  • payout rate • 
  • firm characteristics • 
  • taxes

Adjusting for inflation, the annual amount paid out through dividends and share repurchases by public non-financial firms is three times larger in the 2000s than from 1971 to 1999.

We find that an increase in aggregate corporate income explains 38% of the increase in the average of aggregate annual payouts from 1971-1999 to the 2000s, while an increase in the aggregate payout rate explains 62%. At the firm level, changes in firm characteristics explain 71% of the increase in average payout rate for the population and 49% of the increase in the average payout rate of firms with payouts. Though there is a negative relation between payouts and investment, most of the increase in payouts is unrelated to the decrease in investment. Models estimated over 1971-1999 underpredict the payout rate of firms with payouts in the 2000s. These models perform better when we forecast non-debt-financed payouts for a sample of larger firms, but not for the sample as a whole. Payouts are more responsive to firm characteristics in the 2000s than before, which is consistent with management having stronger payout incentives.


Real name:
Kathleen Kahle
University of Arizona