Dividend payout ratio

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The dividend payout ratio is the fraction of net income a firm pays to its stockholders in dividends:

The part of earnings not paid to investors is left for investment to provide for future earnings growth. Investors seeking high current income and limited capital growth prefer companies with a high dividend payout ratio. However, investors seeking capital growth may prefer a lower payout ratio because capital gains are taxed at a lower rate. High growth firms in early life generally have low or zero payout ratios. As they mature, they tend to return more of the earnings back to investors. The dividend payout ratio is calculated as DPS/EPS.

According to Financial Accounting by Walter T. Harrison, the calculation for the payout ratio is as follows:

Payout Ratio = (Dividends - Preferred Stock Dividends)/Net Income

The dividend yield is given by earnings yield times the dividend payout ratio:

Conversely, the P/E ratio is the Price/Dividend ratio times the DPR.

Impact of buybacks[edit]

Some companies choose stock buybacks as an alternative to dividends; in such cases this ratio becomes less meaningful. One way to adapt it using an augmented payout ratio:[1]

Augmented Payout Ratio = (Dividends + Buybacks)/ Net Income for the same period

Historic data[edit]

The data for S&P 500 is taken from a 2006 Eaton Vance post.[2] The payout rate has gradually declined from 90% of operating earnings in 1940s to about 30% in recent years.

Decade Price %
Dividends as %
of Total Return
1930s -41.90% 56.00% 14.10% N/A 90.10%
1940s 34.8 100.3 135.1 74.20% 59.4
1950s 256.7 180 436.7 41.2 54.6
1960s 53.7 54.2 107.9 50.2 56
1970s 17.2 59.1 76.3 77.5 45.5
1980s 227.4 143.1 370.5 38.6 48.6
1990s 315.7 95.5 411.2 23.2 47.6
2000s -15 8.6 -6.4 N/A 32.3
Average 106.10% 87.10% 193.20% 50.80% 54.30%

For smaller, growth companies, the average payout ratio can be as low as 10%.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/ Financial Ratios and Measures
  2. ^ http://www.eatonvance.com/mutual_funds/dividend_story.php The Dividend Story Archived January 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ http://www.barra.com/Research/Fundamentals.aspx S&P/Barra Indexes -- Fundamentals Archived December 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine