Estimating the Market Risk Premium

48 Pages Posted: 26 Dec 1999

Date Written: October 1999


This paper provides a methodology for estimating the market risk premium based on the underlying process governing the level of market volatility. My model provides a test for a structural shift in the historical risk premium and an unbiased estimate of its value. I provide evidence of a structural shift in the volatility process following the 1930s that implies an upward bias in ex post realized returns during the subsequent period. Controlling for this bias, my estimate of the market risk premium for the period after 1940 is 5.9% over the yield on Treasury bills. My model also provides a lower-bound on forward-looking estimates of the current risk premium of 4.2% over the yield on Treasury bills.

Note: This paper is a revised version of an earlier paper titled "State-dependent Volatility and the Market Risk Premium"

JEL Classification: G10, G12, G31

Suggested Citation

Mayfield, Scott E., Estimating the Market Risk Premium (October 1999). Available at SSRN: or

Scott E. Mayfield (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field
387 Morgan Hall
Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-7898 (Phone)
617-496-7357 (Fax)

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