I don't have any per-market stats on how effective it is for companies to pay out profits vs reinvesting them, but Roger Montgomery has been running a series on it recently.
It is also a common theme among retirees, so there's plenty out there on the benefits and drawbacks of investing primarily for income (sorry, I don't have anything to hand).
Its an underlying issue with dividend imputation, which means income distributed from a company gets treated at a taxpayers marginal rate. For a zero tax payer, they would be far better off getting a dividend than having profit reinvested in the company. For a high rate taxpayer, they are better off with it not distributed, and hence reinvested at the company tax rate.
A company makes $1 of profit. It pays 30 cents tax, leaving 70 cents. It can either distribute all, part or none of this 70 cents.
The company chooses to distribute the 70 cents, with a 30 cent franking credit.
Our zero tax payer (say a super fund in pension mode) gets the 70 cents, and then gets the franking credit refunded. It then has $1.00 it can spend or reinvest.
Our 49% taxpayer (high income earner) gets the 70 cents. The taxpayer owes 49 cents in tax on this money. They get a credit for the franking credit of 30 cents, and pay the remaining 19 cents. They are left with 51 cents to spend or reinvest.
Instead, our company chooses not to pay a dividend, and invests the 70 cents. The price of a share goes up by 70 cents. Our shareholders would have to sell shares to access the funds.
Our zero tax payer would sell 70c of shares. As they pay no tax, they don't pay any capital gains. They have 70 cents to spend or invest. They are worse off than if the dividend was paid.
If our 49% taxpayer wants to reinvest the money in the company (not sell the shares), they have invested 70c. They are better off than getting the dividend. If they want to spend the money, they would have 70c of capital gain to declare. Say they wait a year for the 50% discount. They would pay 17c in tax (70*.5*.49), keeping 53 cents. They are better off than being paid the dividend.
So, if your tax rate is below the company tax rate, you want the dividends to be paid. If your tax rate is above the company tax rate, you want earnings retained.
For the Australian market, the value of super funds is about the same as the total market cap. i.e. they are one of the largest and most vocal investor classes, and have tax rates well below corporate tax rates. Hence there is a strong incentive in the Australian market to have a high payout ratio, as it makes your stock more tax effective for one of your largest investor groups. Indeed, you see a lot of large cap stocks running high payout ratios, while using DRPs to provide capital for expansion.
That's a significant part of my theory as to why payout ratios in Australia are substantially higher than other jurisdictions.