Quarterly Review 1941

The CAPM Debate

Ellen R. McGrattan Consultant
Ravi Jagannathan

Fall 1995

This article describes the academic debate about the usefulness of the capital asset pricing model (the CAPM) developed by Sharpe and Lintner. First the article describes the data the model is meant to explain—the historical average returns for various types of assets over long time periods. Then the article develops a version of the CAPM and describes how it measures the risk of investing in particular assets. Finally the article describes the results of competing studies of the model's validity. Included are studies that support the CAPM (Black; Black, Jensen, and Scholes; Fama and MacBeth), studies that challenge it (Banz; Fama and French), and studies that challenge those challenges (Amihud, Christensen, and Mendelson; Black; Breen and Korajczyk; Jagannathan and Wang; Kothari, Shanken, and Sloan). The article concludes by suggesting that, while academic debate continues, the CAPM may still be useful for those interested in the long run.

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