- December 1, 2016; Vol. 3, Number 12

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Active vs. Passive: What the historical record has to say about the wisdom of these two styles of investing

by Doug Evans

The debate that began several decades ago over the merits and shortcomings of active versus passive management is ongoing. Reports on the topic by investment professionals and academics continue to be published unabated and seem to be one of the investment world’s more popular literary pursuits. While there is hardly a need to add another voice to the discussion, it makes sense to look at the record on active versus passive investing.

Academic studies and literature overwhelmingly support passive management, especially in the highly efficient large-cap indexes. Simply stated, such studies have sought to prove that investment managers are incapable of beating “the market” over the long term, using empirical evidence to support that position. In contrast, the active management community has challenged that claim principally by choosing time periods that favor their constituency, or by noting its success in inefficient markets.

Some random examples from recent histo

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