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The Causes and Consequences of Rate Regulation in the Auto Insurance Industry

  • Dwight Jaffee
  • Thomas Russell

This paper examines various explanations for the increase in the degree of regulation of the auto industry in the last ten years. Using cross section data for the State of California, the paper confirms earlier findings for the State of Massachusetts that the demand for auto insurance is highly price elastic. This implies that regulation induced price rollbacks (such as those mandated by California's popular initiative Proposition 103) have significant welfare effects. We explain the increase in regulation in two ways: a) As an attempt to lower rates to deal with the problem of the uninsured motorist. b) More fundamentally as a response to the perceived lack of fairness of the sharp increase in premiums in the 1980s. This perception of lack of fairness arises because, although auto insurance costs rose sharply in the 1980s, most buyers of auto insurance have no claims in any ten year period. Thus most buyers have only last year's premium as a reference point with which to judge the fairness of this year's premium. The hypothesis that the increase in regulation is driven by a perception of unfairness is tested by analyzing the cross county voting pattern on Proposition 103. Voting in favor of price regulation is positively correlated with the level of insurance premium. This result is consistent both with the view that voting behavior is based on self interest and with the view that the increased demand for regulation is driven by concerns that the large disparity in premiums across counties is unfair.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w5245.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5245.

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Date of creation: Sep 1995
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Publication status: published as Jaffe, Dwight and Thomas Russell. "The Causes and Consequences of Rate Regualtion in the Auto Insurance Industry". The Economics of Property-Casualty Insurance. Edited by David F. Bradford, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998, pp.81-112.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5245
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  1. Kunreuther, Howard & Pauly, Mark, 1985. "Market equilibrium with private knowledge : An insurance example," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 269-288, April.
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  10. Keeton, William R & Kwerel, Evan, 1984. "Externalities in Automobile Insurance and the Underinsured Driver Problem," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 149-79, April.
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  14. Dahlby, B. G., 1983. "Adverse selection and statistical discrimination : An analysis of Canadian automobile insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 121-130, February.
  15. Crocker, Keith J & Snow, Arthur, 1986. "The Efficiency Effects of Categorical Discrimination in the Insurance Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(2), pages 321-44, April.
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  17. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-41, September.
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