Homogeneous Expectations

A subjective belief which postulates that all investors have the same expectations and arrive at similar conclusions

Over 1.8 million professionals use CFI to learn accounting, financial analysis, modeling and more. Start with a free account to explore 20+ always-free courses and hundreds of finance templates and cheat sheets. Start Free

What are Homogeneous Expectations?

Homogeneous expectations is a subjective belief, entrenched in the Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT) proposed by American economist Harry Markowitz, and postulates that all investors have the same expectations and arrive at similar conclusions.

The assumption states that investors are rational in their decisions, resulting in homogeneous investment strategies. It applies to the choice of portfolios that seek to maximize returns and minimize the individually accepted level of risk. The assumption of homogeneous expectations has since triggered divergent opinions, developing into a highly sophisticated research field.


  • Homogeneous expectations is a concept in Modern Portfolio Theory that implies that investors are rational actors and have the same expectations, preferences, expectations, and decision-making criteria. 
  • Some theorists have questioned the premise of Markowitz’s Modern Portfolio model, arguing that people, including investors, are always irrational and have various factors that impact their thought processes. 
  • The assumption of homogeneous expectations that there is a linear relationship between the return of an asset and its diversified risk can primarily lead to a change in market dynamics, consequently impacting the price determination of assets marked as high-risk. 

Homogeneous Expectations Explained

The Modern Portfolio Theory is the brainchild of Harry Markowitz and was published in 1952 through the “Portfolio Selection” paper. The Markowitz approach is based on mean-variance analysis and provides a framework to maximize returns while taking the lowest investment risk. The model further assumes that all investors are reluctant to take risks and that higher risk can translate to higher returns.

MTP argues that the risk of the entire portfolio should focus on portfolio management rather than the risk of individual assets. That is, it is possible to combine high-risk investments and produce a portfolio with a changed risk profile and whose returns reflect its asset classes but with considerably lower risk.

Markowitz’s reasoning is based on the notion that when placing high-risk assets alongside others, it balances out the risk of the whole portfolio since a market cycle impacts each asset class differently.

Principles of Portfolio Construction

MTP proposes the following restrictive steps in the construction of an efficient portfolio:

  • Valuation of Securities: Giving an account of various asset classes in terms of expected returns consistent with different risk levels.
  • Allocation of Assets: Distributing different asset classes within the portfolio.
  • Optimization of the Portfolio: Selecting the best portfolio with a maximum return for a given risk.
  • Measurement of Performance: Ranking each asset’s performance and classifying them into their respective markets and industries. The homogeneous expectation principle essentially assumes that the expectations of investors are the same in terms of core components necessary for creating efficient portfolios, including covariances, asset returns, and variances.

Homogeneous Expectations - Principals of Portfolio Construction

Advantage of Homogeneous Expectations

Markowitz’s pioneering works of Modern Portfolio Theory and homogeneous expectations have changed the scope of asset pricing models. MTP emphasizes the importance of portfolios, the relationship that should exist between expected returns and risks, as well as between securities and diversification.

The concept derived from MPT spares investors from the hardship involved in timing the market. Instead, investors prefer to adopt the buy-and-hold strategy, which entails purchasing securities and then holding onto them over a prolonged time. Eventually, investors have managed to build robust portfolios through the balanced asset allocation method.

Limitations of Homogeneous Expectations

The homogeneity expectations model has affected triggered discussions, with researchers highlighting various limitations of the implicit assumption. It means that, as with others, the Modern Portfolio Theory collapses without a homogeneous expectations assumption.

Studies on behavioral finance have echoed the danger of assuming that all investors think alike in efficient markets. The premise of such criticisms is that people hold different opinions about the future, not to mention having different perceptions and goals in real-life situations. As a result, the criticism leveled against homogeneous exemptions posits that the concept does not hold precisely. Instead, it impacts the price determination of risky assets.

Thus, the interaction of investors with heterogeneous expectations can change the market dynamics, leading to more realistic price behavior. Empirical studies have attempted to propose a theoretical extension of the model by relaxing the rationality assumption, based on a statistical ground.

Special Considerations

The homogeneous expectations assumption argues that investors will choose an investment plan that guarantees the highest profit from many plans with different returns at a given risk. Investors will select a plan bearing the lowest risk in the same vein if presented with plans with different risks.

Investors are portrayed as rational actors in the framework of homogeneous expectations. They calculate the costs and benefits of every investment action alike before arriving at the final decision.

Other economic models with the same assumption include the Black-Scholes option and asset-pricing models. However, the models only assume a certain degree of investor homogeneity. Under the different models, investors are allowed to have diverse preferences but perceive the joint distribution of the rate of returns in the same manner.

Related Readings

CFI is the official provider of the global Commercial Banking & Credit Analyst (CBCA)™ certification program, designed to help anyone become a world-class financial analyst. To keep advancing your career, the additional CFI resources below will be useful:

0 search results for ‘