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Asymmetric Information and Adverse Selection in Mauritian Slave Auctions


  • Georges DIONNE

    (HEC Montreal, CIRPEE and CIRRELT)

  • Pascal ST-AMOUR

    (University of Lausanne, Swiss Finance Institute, CIRANO and CIRPEE)


    (African Development Bank)


Information asymmetry is a necessary prerequisite for testing adverse selection. This paper applies this sequence of tests to Mauritian slave auctions. Dynamic auction theory with private value highlights more aggressive bidding by uninformed bidders and higher prices when an informed participant is active. We conjecture that observable family links between buyer and seller entailed superior information and find a strong price premium when a related buyer purchased a slave, indicative of information asymmetry. We then test for adverse selection using sale motivation. Our results indicate large discounts on voluntary as compared to involuntary sales. Consistent with adverse selection, the market anticipated that predominantly lowproductivity slaves would be brought to the market in voluntary sales.

Suggested Citation

  • Georges DIONNE & Pascal ST-AMOUR & Desire VENCATACHELLUM, 2008. "Asymmetric Information and Adverse Selection in Mauritian Slave Auctions," Swiss Finance Institute Research Paper Series 08-40, Swiss Finance Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:chf:rpseri:rp0840

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    Cited by:

    1. Georges Dionne, 2012. "The Empirical Measure of Information Problems with Emphasis on Insurance Fraud and Dynamic Data," Cahiers de recherche 1233, CIRPEE.
    2. Dionne, Georges & Fombaron, Nathalie & Doherty, Neil, 2012. "Adverse selection in insurance contracting," Working Papers 12-8, HEC Montreal, Canada Research Chair in Risk Management.
    3. Dionne, Georges & Michaud, Pierre-Carl & Pinquet, Jean, 2013. "A review of recent theoretical and empirical analyses of asymmetric information in road safety and automobile insurance," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 85-97.
    4. Georges Dionne & Mélissa La Haye & Anne-Sophie Bergerès, 2015. "Does asymmetric information affect the premium in mergers and acquisitions?," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 48(3), pages 819-852, August.
    5. Ciprian MatiÅŸ & Eugenia MatiÅŸ, 2013. "Asymmetric Information In Insurance Field: Some General Considerations," Annales Universitatis Apulensis Series Oeconomica, Faculty of Sciences, "1 Decembrie 1918" University, Alba Iulia, vol. 1(15), pages 1-17.
    6. Février, Philippe & Linnemer, Laurent & Visser, Michael, 2012. "Testing for asymmetric information in the viager market," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(1), pages 104-123.
    7. Alois Geyer & Daniela Kremslehner & Alexander Muermann, 2020. "Asymmetric Information in Automobile Insurance: Evidence From Driving Behavior," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 87(4), pages 969-995, December.
    8. Carole Botton & Julien Fouquau, 2014. "L'Expertise De L'Evaluation : Une Construction Sociale," Post-Print hal-01899544, HAL.
    9. Lorentziadis, Panos L., 2016. "Optimal bidding in auctions from a game theory perspective," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 248(2), pages 347-371.
    10. Carole Botton & Julien Fouquau, 2012. "Adjugé, Vendu...Assuré," Post-Print hal-00937902, HAL.
    11. Xiaoqi Zhang & Yi Chen & Yi Yao, 2021. "Dynamic information asymmetry in micro health insurance: implications for sustainability," The Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance - Issues and Practice, Palgrave Macmillan;The Geneva Association, vol. 46(3), pages 468-507, July.
    12. Jedidi, Helmi & Dionne, Georges, 2019. "Nonparametric testing for information asymmetry in the mortgage servicing market," Working Papers 19-1, HEC Montreal, Canada Research Chair in Risk Management, revised 28 Oct 2019.
    13. Koptyug, Nikita, 2016. "Asymmetric Information in Auctions: Are Resellers Better Appraisers?," Working Paper Series 1110, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    14. David Rowell & Son Nghiem & Luke B Connelly, 2017. "Two Tests for Ex Ante Moral Hazard in a Market for Automobile Insurance," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 84(4), pages 1103-1126, December.
    15. Yamamoto, Shinichi & 山本, 信一 & Yoneyama, Takau & 米山, 高生 & Kwon, W. Jean, 2012. "An Experimental Study On Adverse Selection And Moral Hazard," Hitotsubashi Journal of commerce and management, Hitotsubashi University, vol. 46(1), pages 51-64, October.

    More about this item


    Information Asymmetry; Adverse Selection; English Auction; Private Value; Slavery; Mauritius.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • N37 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Africa; Oceania


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