Are the benefits of debt declining? The decreasing propensity of firms to be adequately levered

Ranjan D'Mello, Mark Gruskin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

We observe a persistent increase in the percentage of firms with little or no debt in their capital structure over the last three decades. The fraction of firms with less than five percent debt in their capital structure increases from 14.01 percent in 1977 to 34.42 percent in 2010 while the percentage of all-equity firms increases 200 percent over the same period. We find that even after controlling for firm- and industry-specific variables that are relevant to capital structure policy, there is a deficiency in firms' propensity to be levered. Additionally, the deficiency is increasing over time and by 2010 the percent of firms that are nearly all-equity is twice the predicted level. Our findings are robust to different methodologies, specifications, and time periods. Overall, these results suggest that the well-documented benefits of leverage are less valuable over the sample period and that the determinants of firms' capital structure decisions have evolved since the 1970s.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-350
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Corporate Finance
Volume29
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Strategy and Management

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