Should Investors Avoid All Actively Managed Mutual Funds? A Study in Bayesian Performance Evaluation



This paper analyzes mutual-fund performance from an investor's perspective. We study the portfolio-choice problem for a mean-variance investor choosing among a risk-free asset, index funds, and actively managed mutual funds. To solve this problem, we employ a Bayesian method of performance evaluation; a key innovation in our approach is the development of a flexible set of prior beliefs about managerial skill. We then apply our methodology to a sample of 1,437 mutual funds. We find that some extremely skeptical prior beliefs nevertheless lead to economically significant allocations to active managers.