2016 sees many investors looking to diversify their portfolios with investments in emerging market economies, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) remain a popular investment vehicle for accessing equities in emerging markets. Given the uncertainty and volatility in global stock markets, some investors look to lessen their overall risk exposure in emerging market investments by selecting emerging market ETFs that offer above-average dividend yields. Emerging market equities often offer attractive dividend yields because the interest rates in a number of emerging market countries are higher than the interest rates in more developed nations.

IShares Emerging Markets Dividend ETF

BlackRock launched the iShares Emerging Markets Dividend ETF (NYSEARCA: DVYE) in 2012. This ETF, which has $149.4 million in total assets under management (AUM), tracks the dividend-weighted Dow Jones Emerging Markets Select Dividend Index, which is composed of 100 of the highest dividend-yielding emerging market equities. The fund is typically 90% or more invested in the equities contained in the underlying index, or in investments with similar characteristics to the index equities. The fund may be up to 10% invested in futures contracts, options or swaps. Taiwan is the portfolio's top regional allocation at 28.39%, followed by Hong Kong at 16.9%. The real estate sector is the most heavily represented, accounting for 19.37% of the total portfolio. The portfolio's top three holdings are Evergrande Real Estate Group Ltd., Energias do Brasil SA and Light SA.

The fund's expense ratio is 0.49%, well below the diversified emerging markets category average of 0.58%. Its dividend yield is a hefty 6.64%. Its three-year average annualized return is -12.23%, worse than the category average of -7.87%. However, year to date (YTD) in 2016, the fund is up 5.03%, as of mid-March 2016. Morningstar rates the fund as high risk and low return.

SPDR S&P Emerging Markets Dividend ETF

The SPDR S&P Emerging Markets Dividend ETF (NYSEARCA: EDIV) was launched by State Street Global Advisors in 2011. The fund has $253.3 million in total portfolio assets. It aims to mirror the performance of the dividend yield-weighted S&P Emerging Markets Dividend Opportunities Index, which is made up of 100 high-yielding emerging market equities that also show positive three-year earnings growth and profitability. The fund is generally 80% or more invested in either the equities contained in the underlying index or in American depositary receipts (ADR) or global depositary receipts (GDR) that represent index equities. Taiwan and Hong Kong are, again, the leading countries represented in the fund's holdings, accounting for 28.36% and 12.2% of the portfolio, respectively. Communication services companies make up 22.22% of the portfolio, followed by financial sector stocks at 17.60%. The top portfolio holdings are telecommunications firm MTN Group Ltd., Turkish steelmaker Eregli Demir Ve Celik Fabrikalari TAS and Turkish mobile phone company Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri AS.

This fund's expense ratio is also a below-average 0.49%, and it offers a dividend yield of 5.36%. The five-year average annualized return, at -8.67%, is worse than the category average of -5.5%. The fund is down 17.74% YTD in 2016. Morningstar rates this fund as average risk and offering low returns.

WisdomTree Emerging Markets High Dividend ETF

WisdomTree issued the WisdomTree Emerging Markets High Dividend ETF (NYSEARCA: DEM) in 2007. The fund is one of the top five most widely held dividend ETFs, as ranked by dividend.com, with total assets of $1.28 billion. This ETF tracks the WisdomTree Emerging Markets High Dividend Index, a fundamentally weighted index composed of emerging market equities that are in the top 30% of the WisdomTree Emerging Markets Dividend Index, as measured by dividend yield. The fund is typically 95% or more invested in the equities contained in the index, or in investments with characteristics reflecting the performance of equities contained in the underlying index. Yet again, Taiwan and Hong Kong are the most heavily represented countries, at 24.97 and 22.98% allocations, respectively, in the fund's more than 750 holdings. Financial stocks predominate, making up 21.38% of the portfolio. The top three holdings are oil company CNOOC Ltd., Russian natural gas firm Gazprom and mining company MMC Norilsk Nickel.

The fund's expense ratio is 0.63%, slightly above the category average of 0.58%. The dividend yield is 5.31%. The fund's five-year average annualized return is -6.54%, faring worse than the category average of -5.5%. The fund is up 4.84% YTD in 2016. Morningstar rates this ETF as below average in risk and low in returns, on a five-year basis.