Research Design Issues in Earnings Management Studies

Research Design Issues in Earnings Management Studies

Journal of Accounting and Public Policy.
2000, Vol. 19, Issue 4-5, Pages 313-345

This paper discusses trade-offs associated with three research designs commonly used in the earnings management literature: those based on aggregate accruals, those based on specific accruals and those based on the distribution of earnings after management. A key theme of the paper is that empirical procedures for aggregate accruals studies lag both our theories of incentives to manage accruals and our institutional knowledge of how accruals behave. Empirical findings suggest that aggregate accruals models that do not consider long-term earnings growth are potentially misspecified and can result in misleading inferences about earnings management behavior. It is suggested that future progress in the earnings management literature is more likely to come from application of specific accrual and distribution-based tests than from aggregate accruals tests.