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Imperfect Commitment, Altruism, And The Family: Evidence From Transfer Behavior In Low-Income Rural Areas

  • Andrew D. Foster
  • Mark R. Rosenzweig

In this paper, we examine empirically whether risk pooling is more advantageous among altruistic compared to selfish agents in a framework where individuals cannot make binding commitments. In particular, we incorporate altuism into a model of risk sharing under imperfect commitment and use simulation methods to establish tests of the roles of both altruism and commitment problems in determining the extent of insurance and the intertemporal movements in interhousehold transfers. The tests are carried out using three panel data sets from two countries of rural South Asia that provide detailed information on transfers and enable the measurement of income shocks. The estimates provide strong support for the notion that imperfect commitment substantially constrains informal transfer arrangements, whether kin-based or not, but also provide evidence that altruism plays an important role in ameliorating commitment constraints and thus in increasing the gains from income pooling. © 2001 by 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 Review of Economics and Statistics.

Volume (Year): 83 (2001)
Issue (Month): 3 (August)
Pages: 389-407

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:83:y:2001:i:3:p:389-407
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  1. Behrman, Jere R & Foster, Andrew & Rosenzweig, Mark R, 1997. "Dynamic Savings Decisions in Agricultural Environments with Incomplete Markets," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 15(2), pages 282-92, April.
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  5. Paxson, Christina H, 1992. "Using Weather Variability to Estimate the Response of Savings to Transitory Income in Thailand," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 15-33, March.
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  9. Coate, Stephen, 1995. "Altruism, the Samaritan's Dilemma, and Government Transfer Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 46-57, March.
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  12. Hoff, Karla & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1997. "Moneylenders and bankers: price-increasing subsidies in a monopolistically competitive market," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 429-462, April.
  13. Kimball, Miles S, 1988. "Farmers' Cooperatives as Behavior Toward Risk," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(1), pages 224-32, March.
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  16. 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.
  17. Ritter, Joseph A & Taylor, Lowell J, 1994. "Workers as Creditors: Performance Bonds and Efficiency Wages," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 694-704, June.
  18. Altonji, Joseph G & Hayashi, Fumio & Kotlikoff, Laurence J, 1992. "Is the Extended Family Altruistically Linked? Direct Tests Using Micro Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(5), pages 1177-98, December.
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