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The regulation and structure of nonlife insurance in the United States


  • Grace, Martin F.
  • Barth, Michael M.


The insurance industry is underdeveloped in most developing countries because of low levels of income and wealth and because restrictive regulations inhibit the supply of insurance services. But several countries have begun to reform their insurance industries. To help those countries, the authors offer an overview of insurance regulation in the United States - and discuss the economics and market structure of nonlife insurance in entry and exit barriers, economies of scale, and conduct and performance studies. They conclude that the U.S. nonlife insurance industry exhibits low concentration at both national and state market levels. Concentration is low even on a line-by-line basis. The primary concern of regulators has been to protect policyholders from insolvency, but regulation has also often been used to protect the market position of local insurance companies against the entry of out-of-state competitors. Regulation has worked best when based on solvency monitoring, with limited restrictions on entry. It has been more harmful when it involved controls on premiums and products and on the industry's level of profitability. Over the years the industry has shown a remarkable degree of innovation, although it has also faced many serious and persistent problems. The problems include the widespread crisis in liability (including product liability and medical malpractice), the crisis in automobile insurance, the volatility of investment income, the effects of market-driven pricing and underwriting cycles, and the difficulty of measuring insurance solvency. The long-tailed lines of insurance - those that entail long delays in final settlements - are exposed to the vagaries of inflation and rising costs. Two mandatory lines - third party automobile insurance and workers'compensation (for work accidents) - account for nearly 55 percent of premiums. These two lines - plus medical malpractice, other liability, and aircraft insurance - had combined ratios well over 125 percent in 1989. The industry has some ability to collude and to set prices, but seems to be competitive and to earn profits below similarly situated financial firms. Insurance profitability is not consistently above or below normal returns, although earnings for mandatory and strictly regulated lines of automobile insurance and workers'compensation appear to be below-adequate for long-term viability.

Suggested Citation

  • Grace, Martin F. & Barth, Michael M., 1993. "The regulation and structure of nonlife insurance in the United States," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1155, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1155

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    Cited by:

    1. Vittas, Dimitri, 2003. "The insurance industry in Mauritius," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3034, The World Bank.
    2. Savage, Lawrie, 1998. "Re-engineering insurance supervision," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2024, The World Bank.
    3. Vittas, Dimitri, 2004. "Insurance regulation in Jordan : New rules--old system," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3298, The World Bank.


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