IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Profitability and Efficiency in the U.S. Life Insurance Industry

  • William Greene


  • Dan Segal


This study explores the relationship between cost inefficiency and profitability in the U.S. life insurance industry. Earnings have particular importance to life insurance companies because earnings and capital determine the viability of the insurer. Since the life insurance industry is mature and highly competitive, cost efficiency may be the main driver of profitability. We derive cost efficiency using the stochastic frontier (SF) method allowing the mean inefficiency to vary with organizational form and the outputs. In addition, the estimation of the cost efficiency measure takes into account the underlying accounting concepts that generate the data and, consequently, the product mix (long-duration policies vs. short-duration policies) to avoid distorted estimates. Our results suggest that cost inefficiency in the life insurance industry is substantial relative to earnings, and that inefficiency is negatively associated with profitability measures such as the return on equity. The analysis of inefficiency and organizational form suggest that stock (shareholder-owned) companies are as efficient and profitable as mutual (policyholder-owned) companies. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Productivity Analysis.

Volume (Year): 21 (2004)
Issue (Month): 3 (May)
Pages: 229-247

in new window

Handle: RePEc:kap:jproda:v:21:y:2004:i:3:p:229-247
Contact details of provider: Web page:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Gilligan, Thomas & Smirlock, Michael & Marshall, William, 1984. "Scale and scope economies in the multi-product banking firm," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 393-405, May.
  2. Stevenson, Rodney E., 1980. "Likelihood functions for generalized stochastic frontier estimation," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 57-66, May.
  3. Reifschneider, David & Stevenson, Rodney, 1991. "Systematic Departures from the Frontier: A Framework for the Analysis of Firm Inefficiency," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 32(3), pages 715-23, August.
  4. Andrew M. Yuengert, 1993. "The measurement of efficiency in life insurance estimates of a mixed normal-gamma error model," Research Paper 9308, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  5. Yuengert, Andrew M., 1993. "The measurement of efficiency in life insurance: Estimates of a mixed normal-gamma error model," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 17(2-3), pages 483-496, April.
  6. Mayers, David & Smith, Clifford W, Jr, 1988. "Ownership Structure across Lines of Property-Casualty Insurance," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(2), pages 351-78, October.
  7. Gardner, Lisa A. & Grace, Martin F., 1993. "X-Efficiency in the US life insurance industry," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 17(2-3), pages 497-510, April.
  8. Aigner, Dennis & Lovell, C. A. Knox & Schmidt, Peter, 1977. "Formulation and estimation of stochastic frontier production function models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 21-37, July.
  9. Jondrow, James & Knox Lovell, C. A. & Materov, Ivan S. & Schmidt, Peter, 1982. "On the estimation of technical inefficiency in the stochastic frontier production function model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2-3), pages 233-238, August.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:kap:jproda:v:21:y:2004:i:3:p:229-247. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla)

or (Christopher F. Baum)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.