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Does Propitious Selection Explain why Riskier People Buy less Insurance

  • Philippe, DE DONDER
  • Jean, HINDRIKS

    (UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Department of Economics)

Empirical testing of asymmetric information in the insurance market has uncovered a negative correlation between risks 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 selectionâ€. 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 Salanie (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, because 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

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Paper provided by Université catholique de Louvain, Département des Sciences Economiques in its series Discussion Papers (ECON - Département des Sciences Economiques) with number 2006017.

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Length: 21
Date of creation: 01 Mar 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvec:2006017
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  1. Jean Hindriks & Philippe De Donder, 2001. "The Politics of Redistributive Social Insurance," Working Papers 444, Queen Mary University of London, School of Economics and Finance.
  2. Jullien, B. & Salanie, B. & Salanie, F., 1998. "Should More Risk-Averse Agents Exert More Effort?," Papers 98.489, Toulouse - GREMAQ.
  3. John Cawley & Tomas Philipson, 1996. "An Empirical Examination of Information Barriers to Trade in Insurance," NBER Working Papers 5669, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Hemenway, David, 1990. "Propitious Selection," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(4), pages 1063-69, November.
  5. de Meza, David & Webb, David C, 2001. "Advantageous Selection in Insurance Markets," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(2), pages 249-62, Summer.
  6. 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.
  7. Hemenway, David, 1992. " Propitious Selection in Insurance," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(3), pages 247-51, July.
  8. Louis Eeckhoudt & Christian Gollier, 2005. "The impact of prudence on optimal prevention," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 26(4), pages 989-994, November.
  9. Pierre-André Chiappori & Bernard Salanié, 1997. "Testing for Asymmetric Information in Insurance Markets," Working Papers 97-11, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
  10. Jullien, Bruno & Salanié, Bernard & Salanié, François, 2001. "Screening Risk Averse Agents Under Moral Hazard," CEPR Discussion Papers 3076, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. Yaari, Menahem E, 1987. "The Dual Theory of Choice under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(1), pages 95-115, January.
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