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On the Optimal Design of Disaster Insurance in a Federation

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Abstract

Recent experience with disasters and terrorist attacks in the US indicates that state and local governments rely on the federal sector for support after disasters occur. But these same governments invest in infrastructure designed to reduce vulnerability to natural and man-made hazards. We show that when the federal government is committed to full insurance against disasters, regions will have incentives to under-invest in ex-ante protective measures. We derive the structure of the optimal second-best insurance system when regional governments choose investment levels non-cooperatively and the central government cannot verify regional investment choices. For low probability disasters this will result in lower ex-post intergovernmental transfers (and hence less ex-post redistribution) and greater ex-ante investment. However, the second-best transfer scheme suffers from a time-inconsistency problem. Ex-post, the central government will be driven towards full insurance rather than the second-best grants, which results in a type of soft budget constraint problem. Sub-national governments will anticipate this and reduce their investment in protective infrastructure even further. The result is that the central government may be better off suffering the underinvestment that results with first-best transfers because investment is even lower under second-best transfers when the central government is unable to commit.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy J. Goodspeed & Andrew Haughwout, 2011. "On the Optimal Design of Disaster Insurance in a Federation," Economics Working Paper Archive at Hunter College 436, Hunter College Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:htr:hcecon:436
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Gilberto Turati & Luigi Buzzacchi, 2009. "Optimal risk allocation in the provision of local public services: can a private insurer be better than a public mutual fund?," Working Papers 2009/21, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    2. Arthur Charpentier & Benoît Le Maux, 2010. "Natural Catastrophe Insurance: When Should the Government Intervene?," Working Papers hal-00536925, HAL.
    3. Kai A. Konrad & Marcel Thum, 2012. "The Role of Economic Policy in Climate Change Adaptation," CESifo Working Paper Series 3959, CESifo Group Munich.
    4. Wildasin, David E., 2007. "Pre–Emption: Federal Statutory Intervention in State Taxation," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 60(3), pages 649-662, September.
    5. Christos Kotsogiannis & Robert Schwager, 2006. "Fiscal Equalization and Yardstick Competition," Working Papers 2006-15, University of Kentucky, Institute for Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations.
    6. Hikaru Ogawa & David E. Wildasin, 2009. "Think Locally, Act Locally: Spillovers, Spillbacks, and Efficient Decentralized Policymaking," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1206-1217, September.
    7. Anton Bondarev & Beat Hintermann & Frank C. Krysiak & Ralph Winkler, 2017. "The Intricacy of Adapting to Climate Change: Flood Protection as a Local Public Goods Game," CESifo Working Paper Series 6382, CESifo Group Munich.
    8. Charpentier, Arthur & Le Maux, Benoît, 2014. "Natural catastrophe insurance: How should the government intervene?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 1-17.
    9. Lohse, Tim & Robledo, Julio R., 2012. "Public self-insurance and the Samaritan's dilemma in a federation," Discussion Papers, Research Professorship & Project "The Future of Fiscal Federalism" SP II 2012-103, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    10. Luigi Buzzacchi & Gilberto Turati, 2014. "Optimal Risk Allocation in the Provision of Local Public Services: Can a Private Insurer be Better Than a Federal Relief Fund?," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 60(4), pages 747-779.
    11. repec:tur:wpaper:3 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Thushyanthan Baskaran, 2013. "Do bailouts buy votes? Evidence from a panel of Hessian municipalities," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 257-278, August.
    13. Luigi Buzzacchi & Gilberto Turati, 2009. "Collective Risks in Local Administrations: Can a Private Insurer Be Better than a Public Mutual Fund?," Working papers 03, Former Department of Economics and Public Finance "G. Prato", University of Torino.
    14. Rodolfo Manuelli, 2017. "Natural Disasters and Growth: The Role of Foreign Aid and Disaster Insurance," 2017 Meeting Papers 1118, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    15. repec:spr:ecogov:v:18:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10101-017-0194-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Fox, Justin & Van Weelden, Richard, 2015. "Hoping for the best, unprepared for the worst," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 59-65.
    17. Dannenberg, Astrid & Mennel, Tim & Osberghaus, Daniel & Sturm, Bodo, 2009. "The economics of adaptation to climate change: the case of Germany," ZEW Discussion Papers 09-057, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    18. Timothy J. Goodspeed, 2013. "Decentralization and Natural Disasters," CESifo Working Paper Series 4179, CESifo Group Munich.
    19. Baskaran, Thushyanthan, 2014. "Bailouts and austerity," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 212, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    20. Tim Lohse & Julio R. Robledo, 2013. "Public Self-Insurance and the Samaritan’s Dilemma in a Federation," Public Finance Review, , vol. 41(1), pages 92-120, January.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    intergovernmental transfers; natural disasters; federalism; risk sharing;

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H12 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Crisis Management
    • H7 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations
    • R5 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Regional Government Analysis

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