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On the Optimal Design of Disaster Insurance in a Federation

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  • Timothy J. Goodspeed
  • Andrew Haughwout

Abstract

Recent experience with disasters and terrorist attacks in the US indicates that state and local governments rely on the federal sector for support after disasters occur. But these same governments are responsible for investing in infrastructure designed to reduce vulnerability to natural and man-made hazards. This division of responsibilities – state governments providing protection from disasters and federal government providing insurance against their occurrence – leads to the tension that is at the heart of our analysis. We explore these tensions building on the model of Persson and Tabellini (1996). We show that when the federal government is committed to full insurance against disasters, states will have incentives to underinvest in costly protective measures. We then show that when the central government cannot verify state investment choices, the optimal insurance system would be designed to reward states that succeed in avoiding disasters and punish those that do not, thereby giving states an incentive to increase investment in protective infrastructure. However, this raises the question of whether the central government can credibly commit to such a scheme, and we find in a simple political model that it cannot. In our political model, the central government will decrease transfers ex-post if a state provides protective infrastructure that increases its expected uncertain income, generating a soft-budget constraint for states. This provides an additional incentive for states to underinvest in protective infrastructure. We discuss these results in light of disaster policy in the US.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy J. Goodspeed & Andrew Haughwout, 2007. "On the Optimal Design of Disaster Insurance in a Federation," CESifo Working Paper Series 1888, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_1888
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    11. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1996. "Federal Fiscal Constitutions: Risk Sharing and Moral Hazard," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(3), pages 623-646, May.
    12. Nobuo Akai & Emilson Silva, 2009. "Interregional redistribution as a cure to the soft budget syndrome in federations," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 16(1), pages 43-58, February.
    13. Melitz, Jacques & Zumer, Frederic, 2002. "Regional redistribution and stabilization by the center in Canada, France, the UK and the US:: A reassessment and new tests," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(2), pages 263-286, November.
    14. Caplan, Arthur J. & Cornes, Richard C. & Silva, Emilson C. D., 2000. "Pure public goods and income redistribution in a federation with decentralized leadership and imperfect labor mobility," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 265-284, August.
    15. David Wildasin, 2007. "Disaster Policy in the US Federation: Intergovernmental Incentives and Institutional Reform," Working Papers 2007-01, University of Kentucky, Institute for Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gilberto Turati & Luigi Buzzacchi, 2009. "Optimal risk allocation in the provision of local public services: can a private insurer be better than a public mutual fund?," Working Papers 2009/21, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    2. Dannenberg, Astrid & Mennel, Tim & Osberghaus, Daniel & Sturm, Bodo, 2009. "The economics of adaptation to climate change: the case of Germany," ZEW Discussion Papers 09-057, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    3. Christos Kotsogiannis & Robert Schwager, 2006. "Fiscal Equalization and Yardstick Competition," Working Papers 2006-15, University of Kentucky, Institute for Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations.
    4. Hikaru Ogawa & David E. Wildasin, 2009. "Think Locally, Act Locally: Spillovers, Spillbacks, and Efficient Decentralized Policymaking," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1206-1217, September.
    5. Arthur Charpentier & Benoît Le Maux, 2010. "Natural Catastrophe Insurance: When Should the Government Intervene?," Working Papers hal-00536925, HAL.
    6. Timothy J. Goodspeed, 2013. "Decentralization and Natural Disasters," CESifo Working Paper Series 4179, CESifo Group Munich.
    7. Charpentier, Arthur & Le Maux, Benoît, 2014. "Natural catastrophe insurance: How should the government intervene?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 1-17.
    8. Baskaran, Thushyanthan, 2014. "Bailouts and austerity," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 212, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    9. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:6:p:1924-:d:151426 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Tim Lohse & Julio R. Robledo, 2013. "Public Self-Insurance and the Samaritan’s Dilemma in a Federation," Public Finance Review, , vol. 41(1), pages 92-120, January.
    11. Anton Bondarev & Beat Hintermann & Frank C. Krysiak & Ralph Winkler, 2017. "The Intricacy of Adapting to Climate Change: Flood Protection as a Local Public Goods Game," CESifo Working Paper Series 6382, CESifo Group Munich.
    12. Luigi Buzzacchi & Gilberto Turati, 2014. "Optimal Risk Allocation in the Provision of Local Public Services: Can a Private Insurer be Better Than a Federal Relief Fund?," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 60(4), pages 747-779.
    13. Thushyanthan Baskaran, 2013. "Do bailouts buy votes? Evidence from a panel of Hessian municipalities," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 257-278, August.
    14. Kai A. Konrad & Marcel Thum, 2012. "The Role of Economic Policy in Climate Change Adaptation," CESifo Working Paper Series 3959, CESifo Group Munich.
    15. Fox, Justin & Van Weelden, Richard, 2015. "Hoping for the best, unprepared for the worst," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 59-65.
    16. Wildasin, David E., 2007. "Pre–Emption: Federal Statutory Intervention in State Taxation," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 60(3), pages 649-662, September.
    17. Luigi Buzzacchi & Gilberto Turati, 2009. "Collective Risks in Local Administrations: Can a Private Insurer Be Better than a Public Mutual Fund?," Working papers 03, Former Department of Economics and Public Finance "G. Prato", University of Torino.
    18. repec:tur:wpaper:3 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Rodolfo Manuelli, 2017. "Natural Disasters and Growth: The Role of Foreign Aid and Disaster Insurance," 2017 Meeting Papers 1118, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    20. Lohse, Tim & Robledo, Julio R., 2012. "Public self-insurance and the Samaritan's dilemma in a federation," Discussion Papers, Research Professorship & Project "The Future of Fiscal Federalism" SP II 2012-103, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    21. repec:spr:ecogov:v:18:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10101-017-0194-8 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H12 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Crisis Management
    • H7 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations
    • R5 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Regional Government Analysis

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