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Basis Risk and the Welfare Gains from Index Insurance: Evidence from Northern Kenya

Listed author(s):
  • Jensen, Nathaniel D.
  • Barrett, Christopher B.
  • Mude, Andrew G.

Index insurance products circumvent many of the transaction costs and asymmetric information problems that obstruct provision of low value conventional insurance policies in developing countries. Recent years have seen tremendous growth in index insurance pilots in developing countries, but there has been little progress in our understanding of the quality of those products. Basis risk, or remaining uninsured risk, is a widely recognized, but rarely measured drawback of index insurance that carries significant implications for the quality of any such product. This research uses a rich longitudinal household dataset to examine basis risk associated with an index based livestock insurance (IBLI) product available to pastoralists in northern Kenya since 2010. We find that IBLI coverage reduces downside risk for most households when purchased at actuarially fair premium rates and has net utility benefits for most even at commercial rates. Examining the components of basis risk, we find that IBLI reduces exposure to covariate risk due to high loss events by an average of 62.8%. The benefits of reduced covariate risk exposure are relatively small, however, due to high exposure to seemingly mostly random idiosyncratic risk, even in this population often thought to suffer largely from covariate shocks. Depending on covariate region, IBLI policy holders are left with an average of between 62.3% and 76.7% of their original risk due to high loss events. This research underscores the need for caution when promoting index insurance as a tool for reducing exposure to risk and the importance of ex post product evaluation.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 59153.

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Date of creation: Sep 2014
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:59153
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  1. Bellemare, Marc F. & Barrett, Christopher B. & Osterloh, Sharon M., 2005. "Household-Level Livestock Marketing Behavior Among Northern Kenyan and Southern Ethiopian Pastoralists," Working Papers 14749, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
  2. Daniel J. Clarke, 2016. "A Theory of Rational Demand for Index Insurance," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 283-306, February.
  3. Jeffery R. Williams & Gordon L. Carriker & G. Art Barnaby & Jayson K. Harper, 1993. "Crop Insurance and Disaster Assistance Designs for Wheat and Grain Sorghum," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 75(2), pages 435-447.
  4. Joshua D. Woodard, 2008. "Basis risk and weather hedging effectiveness," Agricultural Finance Review, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 68(1), pages 99-117, May.
  5. Paulo Santos & Christopher B. Barrett, 2017. "Heterogeneous Wealth Dynamics: On the Roles of Risk and Ability," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Poverty Traps National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Travis J. Lybbert & Christopher B. Barrett & Solomon Desta & D. Layne Coppock, 2004. "Stochastic wealth dynamics and risk management among a poor population," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(498), pages 750-777, October.
  7. Joshua D. Woodard & Alexander D. Pavlista & Gary D. Schnitkey & Paul A. Burgener & Kimberley A. Ward, 2012. "Government Insurance Program Design, Incentive Effects, and Technology Adoption: The Case of Skip-Row Crop Insurance," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 94(4), pages 823-837.
  8. Jensen, Nathaniel & Mude, Andrew & Barrett, Christopher, 2014. "How Basis Risk and Spatiotemporal Adverse Selection Influence Demand for Index Insurance: Evidence from Northern Kenya," MPRA Paper 60452, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. Dercon, Stefan & Hill, Ruth Vargas & Clarke, Daniel & Outes-Leon, Ingo & Seyoum Taffesse, Alemayehu, 2014. "Offering rainfall insurance to informal insurance groups: Evidence from a field experiment in Ethiopia," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 132-143.
  10. Antoine Leblois & Philippe Quirion & Benjamin Sultan, 2013. "Price vs. weather shock hedging for cash crops: ex ante evaluation for cotton producers in Cameroon," CIRED Working Papers hal-00796528, HAL.
  11. 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.
  12. Smith, Vincent H. & Chouinard, Hayley H. & Baquet, Alan E., 1994. "Almost Ideal Area Yield Crop Insurance Contracts," Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association, vol. 23(1), April.
  13. Sommarat Chantarat & Andrew G. Mude & Christopher B. Barrett & Michael R. Carter, 2013. "Designing Index-Based Livestock Insurance for Managing Asset Risk in Northern Kenya," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 80(1), pages 205-237, March.
  14. Mario J. Miranda & Katie Farrin, 2012. "Index Insurance for Developing Countries," Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 34(3), pages 391-427.
  15. Vedenov, Dmitry V. & Barnett, Barry J., 2004. "Efficiency of Weather Derivatives as Primary Crop Insurance Instruments," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 29(03), December.
  16. Barrett, Christopher B. & Santos, Paulo, 2014. "The impact of changing rainfall variability on resource-dependent wealth dynamics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 48-54.
  17. Hill, Ruth Vargas & Robles, Miguel & Ceballos, Francisco, 2013. "Demand for weather hedges in India: An empirical exploration of theoretical predictions:," IFPRI discussion papers 1280, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  18. Christopher Barrett & Paswel Phiri Marenya & John Mcpeak & Bart Minten & Festus Murithi & Willis Oluoch-Kosura & Frank Place & Jean Claude Randrianarisoa & Jhon Rasambainarivo & Justine Wangila, 2006. "Welfare dynamics in rural Kenya and Madagascar," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(2), pages 248-277.
  19. A. Mushfiq Mobarak & Mark Rosenzweig, 2012. "Selling Formal Insurance to the Informally Insured," Working Papers id:4777, eSocialSciences.
  20. Gunnar Breustedt & Raushan Bokusheva & Olaf Heidelbach, 2008. "Evaluating the Potential of Index Insurance Schemes to Reduce Crop Yield Risk in an Arid Region," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(2), pages 312-328, June.
  21. Ghada Elabed & Marc F. Bellemare & Michael R. Carter & Catherine Guirkinger, 2013. "Managing basis risk with multiscale index insurance," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 44(4-5), pages 419-431, July.
  22. Olivier Mahul, 1999. "Optimum Area Yield Crop Insurance," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 81(1), pages 75-82.
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