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Selling Formal Insurance to the Informally Insured

  • Mobarak, A. Mushfiq

    (Yale University)

  • Rosenzweig, Mark

    (Yale University)

Unpredictable rainfall is an important risk for agricultural activity, and farmers in developing countries often receive incomplete insurance from informal risk-sharing networks. We study the demand for, and effects of, offering formal index-based rainfall insurance through a randomized experiment in an environment where the informal risk sharing network can be readily identified and richly characterized: sub-castes in rural India. A model allowing for both idiosyncratic and aggregate risk shows that informal networks lower the demand for formal insurance only if the network indemnifies against aggregate risk, but not if its primary role is to insure against farmer-specific losses. When formal insurance carries basis risk (mismatches between payouts and actual losses due to the remote location of the rainfall gauge), informal risk sharing that covers idiosyncratic losses enhance the benefits of index insurance. Formal index insurance enables households to take more risk even in the presence of informal insurance. We find substantial empirical support of these nuanced predictions of the model by conducting the experiment (randomizing both index insurance offers, and the locations of rainfall gauges) on castes for whom we have a rich history of group responsiveness to household and aggregate rainfall shocks.

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Paper provided by Yale University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 97.

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Date of creation: Feb 2012
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:yaleco:97
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  1. Andrew D. Foster & Mark R. Rosenzweig, 2002. "Household Division and Rural Economic Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(4), pages 839-869.
  2. Xavier Giné & Robert Townsend & James Vickery, 2007. "Statistical Analysis of Rainfall Insurance Payouts in Southern India," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1248-1254.
  3. Daniel J. Clarke, 2011. "A Theory of Rational Demand for Index Insurance," Economics Series Working Papers 572, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  4. Rosenzweig, Mark R, 1988. "Risk, Implicit Contracts and the Family in Rural Areas of Low-income Countries," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 98(393), pages 1148-70, December.
  5. Petia Topalova & Shawn Cole & Xavier Gene & Jeremy Tobacman & Robert Townsend & James Vickery, 2011. "Barriers to Household Risk Management: Evidence from India," Working Papers id:4293, eSocialSciences.
  6. Hongbin Cai & Yuyu Chen & Hanming Fang & Li-An Zhou, 2009. "Microinsurance, Trust and Economic Development: Evidence from a Randomized Natural Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 15396, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Kaivan Munshi, 2011. "Strength in Numbers: Networks as a Solution to Occupational Traps," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 78(3), pages 1069-1101.
  8. Udry, Christopher, 1994. "Risk and Insurance in a Rural Credit Market: An Empirical Investigation in Northern Nigeria," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 495-526, July.
  9. Rosenzweig, Mark R. & Binswanger, Hans P., 1989. "Wealth, Weather Risk and the Composition and Profitability of Agricultural Investments," Bulletins 7455, University of Minnesota, Economic Development Center.
  10. Townsend, R.M., 1991. "Risk and Insurance in Village India," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center 91-3, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
  11. Arnott, Richard & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1991. "Moral Hazard and Nonmarket Institutions: Dysfunctional Crowding Out or Peer Monitoring?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 179-90, March.
  12. Shiv Saini & Maurizio Mazzocco, 2010. "Testing Efficient Risk Sharing with Heterogeneous Risk Preferences," 2010 Meeting Papers 237, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  13. Barry J. Barnett & Olivier Mahul, 2007. "Weather Index Insurance for Agriculture and Rural Areas in Lower-Income Countries," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1241-1247.
  14. Ligon, Ethan & Thomas, Jonathan P & Worrall, Tim, 2002. "Informal Insurance Arrangements with Limited Commitment: Theory and Evidence from Village Economies," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(1), pages 209-44, January.
  15. Eswaran, Mukesh & Kotwal, Ashok, 1989. "Credit as insurance in agrarian economies," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 37-53, July.
  16. Coate, Stephen & Ravallion, Martin, 1993. "Reciprocity without commitment : Characterization and performance of informal insurance arrangements," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 1-24, February.
  17. Barnett, Barry J. & Barrett, Christopher B. & Skees, Jerry R., 2008. "Poverty Traps and Index-Based Risk Transfer Products," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(10), pages 1766-1785, October.
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