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On the Optimal Design of Disaster Insurance in a Federation

  • Timothy J. Goodspeed
  • Andrew Haughwout

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.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 1888.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_1888
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  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).
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  3. 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.
  4. 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.
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  8. Horst Raff & John Wilson, 1997. "Income Redistribution with Well-Informed Local Governments," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 4(4), pages 407-427, November.
  9. Thomas A. Garrett & Russell S. Sobel, 2003. "The Political Economy of FEMA Disaster Payments," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(3), pages 496-509, July.
  10. Neil Bruce & Michael Waldman, 1986. "The Rotten-Kid Theorem Meets the Samaritan's Dilemma," Working Papers 650, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  11. Lockwood, Ben, 1997. "Inter-Regional Insurance," Discussion Papers 9703, Exeter University, Department of Economics.
  12. Nobuo Akai & Emilson Silva, 2009. "Interregional redistribution as a cure to the soft budget syndrome in federations," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 43-58, February.
  13. Timothy Goodspeed, 2002. "Bailouts in a Federation," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 9(4), pages 409-421, August.
  14. Martin Besfamille & Ben Lockwood, 2008. "Bailouts In Federations: Is A Hard Budget Constraint Always Best?," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 49(2), pages 577-593, 05.
  15. David E. Wildasin, 2008. "Disaster Policies," Public Finance Review, , vol. 36(4), pages 497-518, July.
  16. Bayoumi, Tamim & Masson, Paul R, 1994. "Fiscal Flows in the United States and Canada: Lessons for Monetary Union in Europe," CEPR Discussion Papers 1057, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  17. Cornes, Richard C. & Silva, Emilson C. D., 2000. "Local Public Goods, Risk Sharing, and Private Information in Federal Systems," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 39-60, January.
  18. Bergstrom, Theodore C, 1989. "A Fresh Look at the Rotten Kid Theorem--and Other Household Mysteries," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(5), pages 1138-59, October.
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