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An Empirical Examination of Information Barriers to Trade inInsurance

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  • John Cawley
  • Tomas Philipson

Abstract

This paper tests restrictions implied by the canonical theory of insurance under asymmetric information using ideal data that contains the self-perceived and actual mortality risk of individuals, as well as the price and quantity of their life insurance. We report several findings which are hard to reconcile with the canonical theory. First, we find a striking independence of self-perceived risk and the price of insurance. Second, we find strong evidence of the opposite type of non-linear pricing than predicted by theory: the theory predicts that prices rise with quantity, but we find that they fall. Third, we find that risk is negatively correlated with the quantity of insurance purchased although the theory predicts a positive correlation. Fourth, we find that a substantial fraction of individuals hold multiple insurance contracts, which casts doubt on the prediction that unit prices rise with quantity because multiple small contracts dominate a large one in such a case. Lastly, we test the accuracy of the self-perceived risk of the insured through estimating the induced profits they imply. We conclude by discussing the robustness of these results and the questions they raise for future theoretical models.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State in its series University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State with number 132.

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Date of creation: 1997
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Handle: RePEc:fth:chices:132

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  1. Townsend, Robert M, 1995. "Financial Systems in Northern Thai Villages," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(4), pages 1011-46, November.
  2. Riley, John G, 1979. "Informational Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 331-59, March.
  3. Tomas Philipson & John Cawley, 1999. "An Empirical Examination of Information Barriers to Trade in Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 827-846, September.
  4. Tomas J. Philipson & Gary S. Becker, 1998. "Old-Age Longevity and Mortality-Contingent Claims," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(3), pages 551-573, June.
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  8. Bond, Eric W, 1982. "A Direct Test of the "Lemons" Model: The Market for Used Pickup Trucks," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(4), pages 836-40, September.
  9. Benjamin M. Friedman & Mark Warshawsky, 1985. "The Cost of Annuities: Implications for Saving Behavior and Bequests," NBER Working Papers 1682, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Foster, Andrew D & Rosenzweig, Mark R, 1994. "A Test for Moral Hazard in the Labor Market: Contractual Arrangements, Effort, and Health," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 76(2), pages 213-27, May.
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  17. Rothschild, Michael & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1976. "Equilibrium in Competitive Insurance Markets: An Essay on the Economics of Imperfect Information," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 630-49, November.
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  19. Carlson, John A & Parkin, J Michael, 1975. "Inflation Expectations," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 42(166), pages 123-38, May.
  20. Puelz, Robert & Snow, Arthur, 1994. "Evidence on Adverse Selection: Equilibrium Signaling and Cross-Subsidization in the Insurance Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(2), pages 236-57, April.
  21. Friedman, Benjamin M & Warshawsky, Mark J, 1990. "The Cost of Annuities: Implications for Saving Behavior and Bequests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 135-54, February.
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