The Implications of Accounting Distortions and Growth for Accruals and Profitability
53 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2004
Date Written: March 2004
Following Sloan (1996), numerous studies show that the accrual component of earnings is less persistent than the cash flow component of earnings. Disagreement exists, however, as to the explanation for this result. Xie (2001) attributes the result to managerial discretion. Fairfield et al. (2003a) argue that it is a special case of a more general growth anomaly that is attributable to the widespread use of conservative accounting methods and/or diminishing marginal returns to new investment. Finally, Dechow and Dichev (2002) and Richardson et al. (2004) argue that it is attributable to transitory accrual estimation error. In this paper, we provide theory and evidence to discriminate between these alternative explanations. Our analysis suggests that transitory accrual estimation error provides the most consistent explanation for the lower persistence of the accrual component of earnings. Further, our results suggest the accrual estimation error is at least partially attributable to managerial discretion.
Keywords: Accruals, earnings management, conservative accounting, aggressive accounting
JEL Classification: M41, M43, M44
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation