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Asymmetric information, heterogeneity in risk perceptions and insurance: an explanation to a puzzle


  • Koufopoulos, Kostas


Given that, in equilibrium, all agents freely opt for strictly positive own coverage, competitive models of asymmetric information predict a positive relationship between coverage and ex post risk (accident probability). On the other hand, some recent empirical studies find either negative or no correlation. This paper, by introducing heterogeneity in risk perceptions into an asymmetric information competitive model, provides an explanation to this puzzle. The more optimistic agents underestimate their accident probability relative to less optimistic and so purchase less insurance. They also tend to be less willing to take precautions. This gives rise to separating equilibria exhibiting negative or no correlation between coverage and ex post risk that potentially explain the puzzling empirical findings. Moreover, the no-correlation equilibrium involves some agents being quantity-constrained due to adverse selection. Thus, although the no-correlation empirical findings indicate that there may not be risk-related adverse selection, they do not imply the absence of other forms of adverse selection that have significant effects on the resulting equilibrium.

Suggested Citation

  • Koufopoulos, Kostas, 2002. "Asymmetric information, heterogeneity in risk perceptions and insurance: an explanation to a puzzle," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 24906, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:24906

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Michael Manove & A. Jorge Padilla, 1999. "Banking (Conservatively) with Optimists," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 30(2), pages 324-350, Summer.
    2. 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.
    3. Bertrand Villeneuve, 2000. "The Consequences for a Monopolistic Insurance Firm of Evaluating Risk Better than Customers: The Adverse Selection Hypothesis Reversed," The Geneva Risk and Insurance Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Association for the Study of Insurance Economics (The Geneva Association), vol. 25(1), pages 65-79, June.
    4. 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.
    5. repec:dau:papers:123456789/5367 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Chassagnon, A. & Chiappori, P.A., 1994. "Insurance Under Moral Hazard and Adverse Selection: The Case of Pure Competition," Papers 28, Laval - Laboratoire Econometrie.
    7. Georges Dionne & Christian Gourieroux & Charles Vanasse, 2001. "Testing for Evidence of Adverse Selection in the Automobile Insurance Market: A Comment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(2), pages 444-473, April.
    8. Brugiavini, Agar, 1993. "Uncertainty resolution and the timing of annuity purchases," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 31-62, January.
    9. 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.
    10. Viscusi, W Kip, 1990. "Do Smokers Underestimate Risks?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1253-1269, December.
    11. Arnott, Richard J & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1988. " The Basic Analytics of Moral Hazard," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 90(3), pages 383-413.
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    JEL classification:

    • F3 - International Economics - - International Finance
    • G3 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics


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