There are very few estimates of a time-varying equity risk premium based on models that satisfy a no-arbitrage condition. The main aim of this paper is to estimate the US and UK equity risk premia implied by a number of well-known asset pricing models using monthly data for 1975-2001. The models include consumption-based CAPM with power utility, the Epstein-Zin general equilibrium model with time non-separable preferences, CAPM, and the SDF model. We show that most of the theoretical models of the equity risk premium that have been proposed in the literature are special cases the SDF model. We explain why some of them are unable to do this as formulated. In addition to examining existing theories of the equity risk premium, we use the SDF model to generate new theories. We find that macroeconomic variables not previously considered, and not consistent with standard general equilibrium theory, such as production, appear to be priced for the equity risk premium. This suggests that traditional general equilibrium considerations may not be the sole explanation for the equity risk premium; other short-term factors associated with pure price risk may also be involved. A related, and rapidly growing, literature adopts a more statistical approach. It focusses on the empirical relation between the return on equity (or the Sharpe ratio) and return volatility. We use SDF theory to show that this relation is misconceived. The reason for the absence of estimates of the equity risk premium is the difficulty of estimating it. Most of the empirical evidence on these asset pricing models is based on calibration, or the estimation of the Euler equation by GMM, neither of which delivers an estimate of the risk premium. We use a new empirical approach that does produce estimates of the risk premium and allows tests of the theories. As a result we provide the first estimates of the equity risk premium for some of these models. We then use our estimates to investigate the importance of different components of the equity risk premium including, amongst others, return volatility.
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