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Selling Formal Insurance to the Informally Insured

  • Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak


    (Economic Growth Center, Yale University)

  • Mark Rosenzweig

    (Economic Growth Center, Yale University)

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    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 Economic Growth Center, Yale University in its series Working Papers with number 1007.

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    Length: 40 pages
    Date of creation: Feb 2012
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:egc:wpaper:1007
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    1. Gine, Xavier & Townsend, Robert & Vickery, James, 2007. "Statistical analysis of rainfall insurance payouts in southern India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4426, The World Bank.
    2. Shawn Cole & Xavier Gine & Jeremy Tobacman & Petia Topalova & Robert Townsend & James Vickery, 2013. "Barriers to Household Risk Management: Evidence from India," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 104-35, January.
    3. Ethan Ligon & Jonathan P. Thomas & Tim Worrall, 2002. "Informal Insurance Arrangements with Limited Commitment: Theory and Evidence from Village Economies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(1), pages 209-244.
    4. Daniel J. Clarke, 2011. "A Theory of Rational Demand for Index Insurance," Economics Series Working Papers 572, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    5. Gin, Xavier & Yang, Dean, 2009. "Insurance, credit, and technology adoption: Field experimental evidencefrom Malawi," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 1-11, May.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. Hongbin Cai & Yuyu Chen & Hanming Fang & Li-An Zhou, 2009. "Microinsurance, Trust and Economic Development: Evidence from a Randomized Natural Field Experiment," PIER Working Paper Archive 09-034, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
    10. World Bank, 2005. "Managing Agricultural Production Risk : Innovations in Developing Countries," World Bank Other Operational Studies 8797, The World Bank.
    11. Eswaran, Mukesh & Kotwal, Ashok, 1989. "Credit as insurance in agrarian economies," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 37-53, July.
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