In the three years since the financial crisis hit, investors have remained cautious, but their tolerance for risk has actually held steady, the Investment Company Institute said Thursday.

While 36% of fund-owning households in May 2008 said they were willing to take substantial or above-average risk, that level of risk tolerance has held steady at 29% in the three years since, the ICI said.

“Despite lower levels of risk tolerance among mutual fund-owning households, equity funds continue to be the most commonly held mutual fund,” said Sarah Holden, ICI senior director of retirement and investor research. “Since the financial crisis, investors have remained cautious but steady—with the majority indicating they have confidence that mutual funds can help them meet their investment goals.”

The ICI said there are 90 million individuals in 52.3 million households that own mutual funds. By far, this eclipses the 3.5 million households that own exchange-traded funds and 2.3 million households that own closed-end funds.

The survey also showed that most fund owners have moderate incomes and are in their peak earning years. More than half of all households owning mutual funds have incomes between $25,000 and $99,999, and two-thirds are headed by individuals between the ages of 35 and 64.

Eighty-six percent of fund-owning households own several funds, and 81% own equity funds. Nearly 75% of fund-owning households that purchased their first fund in 2005 or later did so through a workplace retirement plan. For those who made their first purchase before 1999, only 55% made that purchase through a workplace retirement plans.

More than two-thirds said that fund performance was a “very” important factor on their overall impression of the fund industry, and 40% said it was the “most important” factor.

Although 64% of shareholders said they had a favorable impression of mutual fund sin 2009, this has risen to 69%.

ICI’s 2011 Annual Mutual Fund Shareholder Tracking Survey is based on random digit dialing to 4,216 households.

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