The article “Early Female Investors, More Independent than Previously Thought?” first appeared on Alpha Architect Blog.
Independent Women: Investing in British Railways, 1870-1922
- Graeme G. Acheson; Gareth Campbell; Áine Gallagher and John D. Turner
- Economic History Review, 2020
- A version of this paper can be found here
- Want to read our summaries of academic finance papers? Check out our Academic Research Insight category
What are the Research Questions
When we think of the investing community of the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, our minds might immediately think of characters such as Rich Uncle Pennybags 1. It turns out that Uncle Pennybags should be joined, if not replaced, by “Rich Aunt Stuffed-Pockets”. Scholars have documented the rise of women investing during the nineteenth century but this paper focuses on answering two important questions about the development of female investors:
- How did this phenomenon progress into the twentieth-century?
- Whether women shareholders over a century ago behaved differently from their male counterparts?
What are the Academic Insights?
By analyzing the shareholder constituencies of railways 2, which were the largest public companies at the time and a popular investment among the middle class, the authors find:
- Women were playing an important role in financial markets in the early twentieth century: there is evidence of the growing importance of women shareholders from 1843, when they made up about 11 percent of the Great Western Railway shareholder base, to 1920 when they constituted about 40 percent of primary shareholders. By the early twentieth century, women represented 30 to 40 percent of shareholders in each railway company in our sample, which is in line with estimates of the number of women investing in other companies at this time.
- At a time when joint shareholdings were fairly common,
- Women were much more likely to be solo shareholders than men, with 70 to 80 percent of women investing on their own, compared to just 30 to 40 percent of men. When women participated in joint shareholdings, there was no discernible difference as to whether they were the lead shareholder or the secondary shareholder, whereas the majority of men took up a secondary position in their joint shareholdings.
- Women were more likely than men, and solo investors more likely than joint shareholders, to invest locally. This suggests that while men may have used joint investments as a way of reducing the risks of investing at a distance, women preferred to maintain their independence even if this meant focusing more on local investments.
- Male and joint shareholders were more likely than female and solo shareholders to hold multiple railway stocks. This could imply that men were using joint shareholdings as a means of increasing diversification. In contrast, women may have been prioritizing independence, even if it meant being less diversified.
Why does it matter?
These findings provide evidence that women shareholders were acting independently by choosing to take on the sole risks and rewards of share ownership when making their investments as a single shareholder as opposed to sharing the risks and rewards via a joint shareholding. The conclusions of this paper paints a more nuanced picture of how we should think about female investors in the past.
Visit the Alpha Architect Blog to learn more about occupational classification of primary shareholders in the Great Western Railway, 1843-1920.
- The Monopoly Mascot ↩
- The authors use a number of address books such as the Railway Shareholder Address Books for six of the largest railway companies between the years 1915 and 1922 and Shareholder Register for the Great Western Railway (GWR) from 1843. ↩
Disclosure: Alpha Architect
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Alpha Architect, its affiliates or its employees. Our full disclosures are available here. Definitions of common statistics used in our analysis are available here (towards the bottom).
This site provides NO information on our value ETFs or our momentum ETFs. Please refer to this site.
Disclosure: Interactive Brokers
Information posted on IBKR Campus that is provided by third-parties does NOT constitute a recommendation that you should contract for the services of that third party. Third-party participants who contribute to IBKR Campus are independent of Interactive Brokers and Interactive Brokers does not make any representations or warranties concerning the services offered, their past or future performance, or the accuracy of the information provided by the third party. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
This material is from Alpha Architect and is being posted with its permission. The views expressed in this material are solely those of the author and/or Alpha Architect and Interactive Brokers is not endorsing or recommending any investment or trading discussed in the material. This material is not and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any security. It should not be construed as research or investment advice or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any security or commodity. This material does not and is not intended to take into account the particular financial conditions, investment objectives or requirements of individual customers. Before acting on this material, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, as necessary, seek professional advice.