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Informal Risk Sharing in an Infinite-horizon Experiment

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  • Charness, Gary B
  • Genicot, Garance

Abstract

This paper presents the first laboratory study of risk-sharing without commitment. Our experiment captures the main features of a simple model of voluntary insurance between two agents. In the model, two individuals interact over a potential infinite horizon and suffer random income shocks. Risk-averse individuals have incentives to smooth consumption by making transfers to each other. These transfers being voluntary, only self-enforcing risk-sharing arrangements are possible: transfers can never be so large as to tempt individuals to renege on them. This constraint, when binding, has strong implications for the shape of the constrained optimal risk-sharing arrangement. In our experiment, participants are matched in pairs. Each period, one of them, randomly drawn, receives a given amount in addition to its regular income. After observing both incomes, each person in a pair chooses a non-negative transfer to make to the other person. Two features of the experimental design are crucial. First, it is common information that all pairs will be dissolved at the end of each period with a given probability. Participants are informed when this occurs and randomly re-matched. This replicates the effect of infinite-horizon and discounting in the model. Second, at the end of the experiment, a single period is randomly drawn to count for cash payment. This feature is essential for individuals to care about the utility outcome of each period. We find evidence generally consistent with risk sharing, with most transfers coming from individuals who received h in the period. Moreover, in support of the theory, transfers are much higher with a higher continuation probability and they also are highly correlated with the individual’s degree of risk aversion. However, while the model predicts an increase in transfers with ex ante inequality, we observe the opposite effect. This may reflect considerations of identity or group membership.

Suggested Citation

  • Charness, Gary B & Genicot, Garance, 2008. "Informal Risk Sharing in an Infinite-horizon Experiment," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt9sn8t91g, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt9sn8t91g
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Hill, Ruth Vargas & Viceisza, Angelino, 2010. "An experiment on the impact of weather shocks and insurance on risky investment," IFPRI discussion papers 974, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    2. Antonio Filippin & Paolo Crosetto, 2016. "A Reconsideration of Gender Differences in Risk Attitudes," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 62(11), pages 3138-3160, November.
    3. Cettolin, Elena & Tausch, Franziska, 2016. "Risk taking and risk sharing: does responsibility matter? (RM/13/045-revised-)," Research Memorandum 018, Maastricht University, Graduate School of Business and Economics (GSBE).
    4. Renate Strobl & Conny Wunsch, 2017. "Does Voluntary Risk Taking Affect Solidarity? Experimental Evidence from Kenya," CESifo Working Paper Series 6578, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. Todd Cherry & E. Lance Howe & James J. Murphy, 2012. "Sharing as Risk Pooling in a Social Dilemma Experiment," Working Papers 2012-01, University of Alaska Anchorage, Department of Economics.
    6. Nicolas Lampach & Kene Boun My & Sandrine Spaeter, 2016. "Risk, Ambiguity and Efficient Liability Rules: An experiment," Working Papers of BETA 2016-30, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
    7. Martin Ravallion, 2017. "Global Inequality when Unequal Countries Create Unequal People," NBER Working Papers 24177, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. de Oliveira, Angela C.M. & Eckel, Catherine C. & Croson, Rachel T.A., 2014. "Solidarity among the poor," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 123(2), pages 144-148.
    9. Shoji, Masahiro, 2016. "Incentive of risk sharing and trust formation: Experimental and survey evidence from Bangladesh," MPRA Paper 71950, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Tausch, Franziska & Potters, Jan & Riedl, Arno, 2013. "Preferences for redistribution and pensions. What can we learn from experiments?," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(03), pages 298-325, July.
    11. Elena Cettolin & Franziska Tausch, 2015. "Risk taking and risk sharing: Does responsibility matter?," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 50(3), pages 229-248, June.
    12. Fischer, Gregory, 2013. "Contract structure, risk sharing and investment choice," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 46796, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    13. Jonathan Robinson, 2012. "Limited Insurance within the Household: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Kenya," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 140-164, October.
    14. Lucy Ackert & Ann Gillette & Jorge Martinez-Vazquez & Mark Rider, 2011. "Are benevolent dictators altruistic in groups? A within-subject design," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 14(3), pages 307-321, September.
    15. Katerina Sherstyuk & Nori Tarui & Tatsuyoshi Saijo, 2013. "Payment schemes in infinite-horizon experimental games," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 16(1), pages 125-153, March.
    16. Chakraborty, Tanika & Mirkasimov, Bakhrom & Steiner, Susan, 2015. "Transfer behavior in migrant sending communities," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 690-705.
    17. E. Lance Howe & James J. Murphy & Drew Gerkey & Colin T. West, 2015. "Indirect Reciprocity, Resource Sharing, and Environmental Risk: Evidence from Field Experiments in Siberia," Working Papers 2015-04, University of Alaska Anchorage, Department of Economics.
    18. Vesely, Stepan & Wengström, Erik, 2017. "Risk and Cooperation: Experimental Evidence from Stochastic Public Good Games," Working Papers 2017:3, Lund University, Department of Economics.
    19. Pascaline Dupas & Jonathan Robinson, 2013. "Savings Constraints and Microenterprise Development: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Kenya," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 163-192, January.
    20. Charness, Gary & Viceisza, Angelino, 2011. "Comprehension and risk elicitation in the field: Evidence from rural Senegal," IFPRI discussion papers 1135, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    21. Paul J. Healy & Yaron Azrieli & Christopher P. Chambers, 2016. "Incentives in Experiments: A Theoretical Analysis," Working Papers 16-03, Ohio State University, Department of Economics.
    22. Lin, Wanchuan & Liu, Yiming & Meng, Juanjuan, 2014. "The crowding-out effect of formal insurance on informal risk sharing: An experimental study," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 184-211.
    23. Ruth Hill & Angelino Viceisza, 2012. "A field experiment on the impact of weather shocks and insurance on risky investment," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 15(2), pages 341-371, June.

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