Empirical Evidence on Dividend Policy

We observe several interesting patterns when we look at the dividend policies of firms in the United States in the last 50 years. First, dividends tend to lag behind earnings; that is, increases in earnings are followed by increases in dividends, and decreases in earnings sometimes by dividend cuts. Second, dividends are "sticky" because firms are typically reluctant to change dividends; in particular, firms avoid cutting dividends even when earnings drop. Third, dividends tend to follow a much smoother path than do earnings. Finally, there are distinct differences in dividend policy over the life cycle of a firm, resulting from changes in growth rates, cash flows, and project availability.

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