Investment return of 6.8% brings Yale endowment value to $31.2 billion

Yale’s endowment earned a 6.8% investment return (net of fees) for the year ending June 30, 2020. The endowment value increased from $30.3 billion on June 30, 2019, to $31.2 billion on June 30, 2020. 

Spending from the endowment, which is the largest source of revenue for the university and supports faculty salaries, student scholarships, and other expenses, for Yale’s 2021 fiscal year is projected to be $1.5 billion, representing approximately 35% of the university’s net revenues. Endowment distributions to the operating budget have increased at an annualized rate of 7.9% over the past 20 years. Those distributions support, among other priorities, Yale’s commitment to meeting the full financial need of every student enrolled in Yale College. 

The university’s longer-term results remain in the top tier of institutional investors. Yale’s endowment returned 10.9% per annum over the 10 years ending June 30, 2020, trailing broad market results for domestic stocks, which returned 13.7% annually, and exceeding results for domestic bonds, which returned 3.8% annually. Relative to the estimated 7.4% average ten-year return of college and university endowments, Yale’s investment performance added $9.6 billion of value in the form of increased spending and enhanced endowment value. During the 10-year period, the endowment grew from $16.7 billion to $31.2 billion. 

Yale’s endowment returned 9.9% per annum over the 20 years ending June 30, 2020, exceeding broad market results for domestic stocks, which returned 6.2% annually, and for domestic bonds, which returned 5.1% annually. Relative to the estimated 5.6% average return of college and university endowments, over the past 20 years Yale’s investment performance added $25.9 billion of value in the form of increased spending and enhanced endowment value. During the 20-year period, the endowment grew from $10.0 billion to $31.2 billion. 

Long-term asset class performance 

Yale’s 10-year asset class performance is solid. Domestic equities returned 12.8%, underperforming the benchmark by 1.0% annually. Foreign equities produced returns of 15.8%, surpassing the composite benchmark by 10.7% annually. Absolute return produced an annualized return of 5.3%. Leveraged buyouts returned 14.6%, while venture capital returned 21.3%. Real estate and natural resources contributed annual returns of 9.7% and 4.4%, respectively. 

Yale’s 20-year asset class performance remains strong. Domestic equities returned 9.7%, besting the benchmark by 3.5% annually. Foreign equities produced returns of 14.8%, surpassing the composite benchmark by 9.3% annually. Absolute return produced an annualized return of 8.1%. Leveraged buyouts returned 11.2%, while venture capital returned 11.6%. Real estate and natural resources contributed annual returns of 8.3% and 13.6%, respectively.1

Asset allocation 

Yale continues to maintain a well-diversified, equity-oriented portfolio, with the following asset allocation targets for fiscal year 2021:

Absolute return 23.5%
Venture capital 23.5%
Leveraged buyouts 17.5%
Foreign equity 11.75%
Real estate 9.5%
Bonds and cash 7.5%
Natural resources 4.5%
Domestic equity 2.25%

Yale targets a minimum allocation of 30% of the endowment to market-insensitive assets (cash, bonds, and absolute return). The university further seeks to limit illiquid assets (venture capital, leveraged buyouts, real estate and natural resources) to 50% of the portfolio. 

Yale’s spending and investment policies provide substantial levels of cash flow to the operating budget for current scholars, while preserving endowment purchasing power for future generations. Approximately a quarter of spending from the endowment is specified by donors to support professorships and teaching. Nearly a fifth is dedicated to scholarships, fellowships and prizes. Almost a quarter is available for general university purposes. The remaining endowment funds are donor-designated to support specific departments or programs.


1 Yale employs time-weighted returns to assess manager performance in marketable equities and absolute return, because the cash flows to and from the asset classes are determined by the university. Returns reported for leveraged buyouts, venture capital, real estate and natural resources are dollar-weighted internal rates of return, because the managers of illiquid asset classes determine when to buy and sell assets.

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Media Contact

Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-432-1326