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The Role Of Commitment In Dynamic Contracts: Evidence From Life Insurance

  • Igal Hendel
  • Alessandro Lizzeri

We use data on life insurance contracts to study the properties of long-term contracts in a world where buyers cannot commit to a contract. The data are especially suited to test a theory of dynamic contracting since they include information on the entire profile of future premiums. All the patterns in the data fit the theoretical predictions of a model with symmetric learning and one-sided commitment à la Harris and Holmstom. The lack of commitment by consumers shapes contracts in the way predicted by the theory: all contracts involve front-loading (prepayment) of premiums. Front-loading generates a partial lock-in of consumers; more front-loading is associated with lower lapsation. Moreover, contracts that are more front-loaded have a lower present value of premiums over the period of coverage. This is consistent with the idea that front-loading enhances consumer commitment and that more front-loaded contracts retain better risk pools. © 2001 the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 118 (2003)
Issue (Month): 1 (February)
Pages: 299-327

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:118:y:2003:i:1:p:299-327
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