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Do Hypothetical Experiences Affect Real Financial Decisions? Evidence from Insurance Take-up


  • Cai, Jing
  • Song, Changcheng


This paper uses a novel experimental design to study the effect of hypothetical personal experience on the adoption of a new insurance product in rural China. Specifically, we conduct a set of insurance games with a random subset of farmers. Our findings show that playing insurance games improves insurance take-up in real life by 48%. Exploring the mechanism behind this effect, we show that the effect is not driven by changes in risk attitudes, changes in perceived probability of disasters, or learning of insurance benefits, but is driven mainly by the experience acquired in playing the insurance game. Moreover, we find that, compared with experience with real disasters in the previous year, the hypothetical experience gained in the insurance game has a stronger effect on insurance take-up, implying that the impact of personal experience displays a strong recency effect.

Suggested Citation

  • Cai, Jing & Song, Changcheng, 2013. "Do Hypothetical Experiences Affect Real Financial Decisions? Evidence from Insurance Take-up," MPRA Paper 46862, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:46862

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Liran Einav & Amy Finkelstein & Jonathan Levin, 2010. "Beyond Testing: Empirical Models of Insurance Markets," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 2(1), pages 311-336, September.
    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 104-135, January.
    3. Markku Kaustia & Samuli Knüpfer, 2008. "Do Investors Overweight Personal Experience? Evidence from IPO Subscriptions," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 63(6), pages 2679-2702, December.
    4. Dean Karlan & Robert Osei & Isaac Osei-Akoto & Christopher Udry, 2014. "Agricultural Decisions after Relaxing Credit and Risk Constraints," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(2), pages 597-652.
    5. Robert Gazzale & Julian Jamison & Alexander Karlan & Dean Karlan, 2013. "Ambiguous Solicitation: Ambiguous Prescription," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(1), pages 1002-1011, January.
    6. Jing Cai & Alain De Janvry & Elisabeth Sadoulet, 2015. "Social Networks and the Decision to Insure," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 81-108, April.
    7. Simonsohn, Uri & Karlsson, Niklas & Loewenstein, George & Ariely, Dan, 2008. "The tree of experience in the forest of information: Overweighing experienced relative to observed information," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 263-286, January.
    8. Xavier Giné & Robert Townsend & James Vickery, 2008. "Patterns of Rainfall Insurance Participation in Rural India," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 22(3), pages 539-566, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Takahashi, Kazushi & Ikegami, Munenobu & Sheahan, Megan & Barrett, Christopher B., 2014. "Quasi-experimental evidence on the drivers of index-based livestock insurance demand in Southern Ethiopia," IDE Discussion Papers 480, Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization(JETRO).
    2. Platteau, Jean-Philippe & De Bock, Ombeline & Gelade, Wouter, 2017. "The Demand for Microinsurance: A Literature Review," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 139-156.

    More about this item


    Insurance; Take-up; Game; Experience; Learning;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • G22 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Insurance; Insurance Companies; Actuarial Studies
    • M31 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Marketing and Advertising - - - Marketing
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • Q12 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Micro Analysis of Farm Firms, Farm Households, and Farm Input Markets

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