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Does Propitious Selection Explain Why Riskier People Buy Less Insurance?

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  • De Donder, Philippe
  • Hindriks, Jean J.G.

Abstract

Empirical testing of asymmetric information in the insurance market has uncovered a negative correlation between risk levels and insurance purchases, rather than the positive correlation predicted by the standard insurance theory. Hemenway (1990) proposes an explanation for this negative correlation, called 'propitious selection''. He argues that potential insurance buyers have different tastes for risk and that 'individuals who are highly risk avoiding are more likely both to try to reduce the hazard and to purchase insurance' (p. 1064). Chiappori and Salanié (2000) also suggest that this line of argument, which they call 'cherry picking', may explain the observed negative correlation. In this paper, we show that the propitious selection argument does not imply negative correlation between risk levels and insurance purchases, be-cause it fails to take into account the supply side of the insurance market. To illustrate this claim, we provide a model where, although we assume that individuals differ in risk aversion and that the more risk averse individuals exert more precaution and buy more insurance, we end up with a positive correlation between risk and insurance purchases at equilibrium. The reason is that, in any separating equilibrium, the more risk averse individuals face insurance overprovision which, combined with moral hazard, increases their risk relative to the less risk averse individuals. To obtain the negative correlation between risk and insurance purchases, one further needs the extra condition of decreasing marginal willingness to pay for the less risk averse individuals. Finally, we find that propitious selection has profound policy implications for social insurance.

Suggested Citation

  • De Donder, Philippe & Hindriks, Jean J.G., 2006. "Does Propitious Selection Explain Why Riskier People Buy Less Insurance?," CEPR Discussion Papers 5640, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5640
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Tomas Philipson & John Cawley, 1999. "An Empirical Examination of Information Barriers to Trade in Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 827-846, September.
    2. Hindriks, Jean & De Donder, Philippe, 2003. "The politics of redistributive social insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(12), pages 2639-2660, December.
    3. Bruno Jullien & Bernard Salanié & François Salanié, 1999. "Should More Risk-Averse Agents Exert More Effort?," The Geneva Risk and Insurance Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Association for the Study of Insurance Economics (The Geneva Association), vol. 24(1), pages 19-28, June.
    4. Yaari, Menahem E, 1987. "The Dual Theory of Choice under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(1), pages 95-115, January.
    5. Bruno Jullien & Bernard Salanié & François Salanié, 2000. "Screening Risk-Averse Agents Under Moral Hazard," Working Papers 2000-41, Center for Research in Economics and Statistics.
    6. de Meza, David & Webb, David C, 2001. "Advantageous Selection in Insurance Markets," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(2), pages 249-262, Summer.
    7. Louis Eeckhoudt & Christian Gollier, 2005. "The impact of prudence on optimal prevention," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 26(4), pages 989-994, November.
    8. Pierre-Andre Chiappori & Bernard Salanie, 2000. "Testing for Asymmetric Information in Insurance Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(1), pages 56-78, February.
    9. Hemenway, David, 1992. "Propitious Selection in Insurance," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(3), pages 247-251, July.
    10. Amy Finkelstein & Kathleen McGarry, 2003. "Private Information and its Effect on Market Equilibrium: New Evidence from Long-Term Care Insurance," NBER Working Papers 9957, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. David Hemenway, 1990. "Propitious Selection," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(4), pages 1063-1069.
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    Cited by:

    1. Nick Netzer & Florian Scheuer, 2006. "Competitive Screening in Insurance Markets with Endogenous Labor Supply," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 614, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    2. Alma Cohen & Peter Siegelman, 2010. "Testing for Adverse Selection in Insurance Markets," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 77(1), pages 39-84.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    cherry picking; precaution; preference-based adverse selection; social insurance;

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • G22 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Insurance; Insurance Companies; Actuarial Studies

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