Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Diego Escobari

Second Advisor

Dr. Marie T. Mora

Third Advisor

Dr. Haiyan Zhou


This dissertation considers the role of cultural traits in the markets for alternative investments. The latter refers to assets that are not traditionally discussed when building a financial portfolio for ordinary investors. These are subject to low turnover, high maintenance costs, and low liquidity for investors. These features distinguish them to be non-typical assets that demand more careful strategy to acquire, maintain, and sell these belongings. Nevertheless, investors are interested in these assets for the dual purposes of building equities and consuming benefits simultaneously during ownership. We focus on two types of durable assets—residential houses and paintings at art auctions—to study cultural traits being determinants of their values.

In the second chapter, we examine the role of restrictive social network on housing prices. Using private golf courses as a proxy for exclusivity, our hedonic model tests the impact of different golf course types on the transaction prices of houses across the U.S. Our sample contains 4,936,449 residential houses sold from January, 2014 to December, 2018 and 14,923 golf courses in the U.S. We use both county and city as geographical units of analysis. We find semi-private and public courses are positively related to house prices. Using a subsample of repeat sales (n = 130,037), we find high numbers of public and 18-hole courses at the county level are negatively related to the returns of resold houses. On the other hand, we find courses less than a decade old and 18-hole courses are positively related to their returns. Statistically significant relationships appear to exist when we create both county-quarter and city-quarter portfolios of sale prices. However, these estimates are weaker than our expectation. Our results suggest there may be a kink, but not a smooth, effect of golf course proximity on house prices. We conjecture this golf course effect is geographically confined to subdivisions abutting these courses. Our future study will consider spatial aspects of houses and exclusivity—i.e., private courses command a higher premium among homebuyers for the privilege of living in those neighborhoods.

In the third chapter, we examine how different genres of paintings influence auction prices in the markets for collectibles. We are motivated by the unsubstantiated argument in the literature that certain thematic items, such as religious paintings, are underappreciated and undervalued by typical collectors. However, there have been a few recent auction events where auctioneers sell items that exhibit strong religious themes. Moreover, many paintings in the western world by well known artists have religious themes that were sold at record-breaking prices. If the argument were true, then unprecedented prices for these culturally symbolic items may reveal speculative behavior among investors in the collectibles market. This study hinges on the theoretical framework of thick-and-thin markets where investors are likely to pay a premium for an item when more buyers exist to bid on genre-specific paintings. However, we would like to examine the irrational behavior of a collector and contribute to the behavioral finance literature. Our objective is to determine whether secularized players in the auction market pay more for paintings belonging to specific genres. Our data contain 4,658,228 auctioned items sold from January, 1989 to December, 2018. However, we homogenize our sample and use only a group of paintings (n = 2,051,074) sold at three major auction houses. In a regression of ten genre categories on transaction prices of auctioned items, controlling for item characteristics and other sales information, we find paintings without formal titles, landscape paintings, and self-portraits are positively related to auction prices. Estimates from quantile regressions reveal the effects of these genres remain stronger for paintings belonging to the highest price group. Re-estimation of the hedonic model by year shows no genre experiences a sustainable, positive relationship with sale prices during the past three decade. However, paintings without formal titles, self-portraits, nude, and religious themes appear to be positively related to auction prices than those belonging to other genres. We then create a quarterly portfolio of paintings by genres and compare them against the performance of the stock market using the following proxies: the S&P 500, the S&P 600, and the Dow 30 indices. Consistent with the findings in the literature, we find these thematic portfolios perform worse than the equity market proxies. Our comparison of quarterly portfolio returns suggests households already owning any genre of painting should consider adding equities to diversify their financial assets.


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