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A Tale of Two Tails: On the Coexistence of Overweighting and Underweighting of Rare Extreme Events

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  • Epper, Thomas

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  • Fehr-Duda, Helga

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Abstract

Almost all important decisions in people’s lives entail risky consequences. Some of these decisions involve events that materialize with a low probability but lead to extreme consequences such as loss of total wealth or accidental death. When facing such rare extreme events, people display considerable risk aversion in some situations whereas in others the opposite is the case. For example, the prospect of airplane and stock market crashes triggers high risk aversion but there is a low willingness to take out hazard or life insurance. We address this puzzle by arguing that the timing of the consequences and of uncertainty resolution are crucial for understanding these phenomena. We show that future uncertainty conjointly with people’s proneness to probability distortions generates a unifying framework for explaining the coexistence of over- and underweighting of rare extreme events.

Suggested Citation

  • Epper, Thomas & Fehr-Duda, Helga, 2017. "A Tale of Two Tails: On the Coexistence of Overweighting and Underweighting of Rare Extreme Events," Economics Working Paper Series 1705, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:usg:econwp:2017:05
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Tail risk; insurance; risk preference; time preferences; extreme events; probability weighting;

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making

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