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

Between the State and the Market: Can Informal Insurance Patch the Safety Net?

  • Morduch, Jonathan

Most households in low-income countries deal with economic hardships through informal insurance arrangements between individuals and communities rather than through publicly managed programs or market-provided insurance schemes. Households may, for example, draw on savings, sell physical assets, rely on reciprocal gift exchanges, or diversify into alternative income-generating activities. These mechanisms can be highly effective in the right circumstances, but most recent studies show that informal insurance arrangements are often weak. Poor households, in particular, have substantial difficulties coping with even local, idiosyncratic risks. Public policy can help reduce vulnerability by encouraging private, flexible coping mechanisms while discouraging those that are fragile or that hinder economic and social mobility. Promising policies include creating self-regulating workfare programs and providing a supportive setting for institutions working to improve access to credit, crop and health insurance, and safe and convenient saving opportunities. Copyright 1999 by Oxford University Press.

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: no

Article provided by World Bank Group in its journal World Bank Research Observer.

Volume (Year): 14 (1999)
Issue (Month): 2 (August)
Pages: 187-207

in new window

Handle: RePEc:oup:wbrobs:v:14:y:1999:i:2:p:187-207
Contact details of provider: Postal: Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford OX2 6DP, UK
Phone: (202) 477-1234
Fax: 01865 267 985
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

Order Information: Web:

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. Jalan, Jyotsna & Ravallion, Martin, 1997. "Are the poor less well-insured? Evidence on vulnerability to income risk in rural China," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1863, The World Bank.
  2. Jonathan Morduch, 1999. "The Microfinance Promise," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(4), pages 1569-1614, December.
  3. Kenneth M. Kletzer and Brian D. Wright., 1998. "Sovereign Debt as Intertemporal Barter," Center for International and Development Economics Research (CIDER) Working Papers C98-100, University of California at Berkeley.
  4. Anjini Kochar, 1999. "Smoothing Consumption by Smoothing Income: Hours-of-Work Responses to Idiosyncratic Agricultural Shocks in Rural India," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(1), pages 50-61, February.
  5. Rosenzweig, Mark R., 1986. "Risk, Implicit Contracts and the Family in Rural Areas of Low-Income Countries," Bulletins 7518, University of Minnesota, Economic Development Center.
  6. Haddad, Lawrence James & Zeller, Manfred, 1996. "How can safety nets do more with less?," FCND discussion papers 16, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  7. Timothy Besley, 1995. "Nonmarket Institutions for Credit and Risk Sharing in Low-Income Countries," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 115-127, Summer.
  8. Townsend, Robert M, 1994. "Risk and Insurance in Village India," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(3), pages 539-91, May.
  9. Lim, Y. & Townsend, R.M., 1997. "General Equilibrium Models of Financial Systems: Theory and Measurement in Village Economies," Papers 9716, Centro de Estudios Monetarios Y Financieros-.
  10. Alderman, H. & Paxson, C.H., 1992. "Do the Poor Insure? A Synthesis of the Literature on Risk and Consumption in Developing Countries," Papers 164, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Development Studies.
  11. Alderman, Harold, 1996. "Saving and economic shocks in rural Pakistan," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 343-365, December.
  12. Rosenzweig, Mark R. & Binswanger, Hans P., 1992. "Wealth, weather risk, and the composition and profitability of agricultural investments," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1055, The World Bank.
  13. Eliana La Ferrara, . "Ethnicity and Reciprocity: A model of Credit Transactions in Ghana," Working Papers 193, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  14. Lucas, Robert E B & Stark, Oded, 1985. "Motivations to Remit: Evidence from Botswana," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(5), pages 901-18, October.
  15. Banerjee, Abhijit & Newman, Andrew F, 1998. "Information, the Dual Economy, and Development," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(4), pages 631-53, October.
  16. Hoddinott, John & Kinsey, Bill, 2001. " Child Growth in the Time of Drought," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 63(4), pages 409-36, September.
  17. Case, A. & Deaton, A., 1996. "Large Cash Transfers to the Elderly in South Africa," Papers 176, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Development Studies.
  18. Fafchamps, Marcel, 1992. "Solidarity Networks in Preindustrial Societies: Rational Peasants with a Moral Economy," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(1), pages 147-74, October.
  19. Morduch, Jonathan, 1994. "Poverty and Vulnerability," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 221-25, May.
  20. Paul Gertler & Jonathan Gruber, 2002. "Insuring Consumption Against Illness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 51-70, March.
  21. Fafchamps, Marcel & Lund, Susan, 2003. "Risk-sharing networks in rural Philippines," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 261-287, August.
  22. Andrew D. Foster & Mark R. Rosenzweig, 2001. "Imperfect Commitment, Altruism, And The Family: Evidence From Transfer Behavior In Low-Income Rural Areas," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(3), pages 389-407, August.
  23. Elaina Rose, 1999. "Consumption Smoothing and Excess Female Mortality in Rural India," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(1), pages 41-49, February.
  24. Martin Ravallion & Shubham Chaudhuri, 1997. "Risk and Insurance in Village India: Comment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(1), pages 171-184, January.
  25. Marcel Fafchamps & Chris Udry & Katherine Czukas, . "Drought and Saving in West Africa: Are Livestock a Buffer Stock?," Working Papers 97013, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  26. Jacoby, Hanan G & Skoufias, Emmanuel, 1997. "Risk, Financial Markets, and Human Capital in a Developing Country," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(3), pages 311-35, July.
  27. Reardon, Thomas & Matlon, Peter & Delgado, Christopher, 1988. "Coping with household-level food insecurity in drought-affected areas of Burkina Faso," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 16(9), pages 1065-1074, September.
  28. Coate, Stephen & Ravallion, Martin, 1993. "Reciprocity without commitment : Characterization and performance of informal insurance arrangements," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 1-24, February.
  29. Ravallion, Martin, 1991. "Reaching the Rural Poor through Public Employment: Arguments, Evidence, and Lessons from South Asia," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 6(2), pages 153-75, July.
  30. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Stark, Oded, 1989. "Consumption Smoothing, Migration, and Marriage: Evidence from Rural India," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(4), pages 905-26, August.
  31. Das Gupta, Monica, 1987. "Informal Security Mechanisms and Population Retention in Rural India," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(1), pages 101-20, October.
  32. Cochrane, John H, 1991. "A Simple Test of Consumption Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 957-76, October.
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:oup:wbrobs:v:14:y:1999:i:2:p:187-207. 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: (Oxford University Press)

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.