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Does the Internet Make Markets More Competitive? Evidence from the Life Insurance Industry


Jeffrey R. Brown


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Finance; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); University of Illinois College of Law; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA); University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Economics

Austan Goolsbee


University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

October 2000

KSG Working Paper No. 00-007

Abstract:     
The Internet has the potential to significantly reduce search costs by allowing consumers to engage in low-cost price comparisons online. This paper provides empirical evidence on the impact that the rise of Internet comparison shopping sites has had for the prices of life insurance in the 1990s. Using micro data on individual life insurance policies, the results indicate that, controlling for individual and policy characteristics, a 10 percent increase in the share of individuals in a group using the Internet reduces average insurance prices for the group by as much as 5 percent. Further evidence indicates that prices did not fall with rising Internet usage for insurance types that were not covered by the comparison websites, nor did they in the period before the insurance sites came online. The results suggest that growth of the Internet has reduced term life prices by 8 to 15 percent and increased consumer surplus by $115-215 million per year and perhaps more. The results also show that the initial introduction of the Internet search sites is initially associated with an increase in price dispersion within demographic groups, but as the share of people using the technology rises further, dispersion falls.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 31

JEL Classification: L1, O4

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Date posted: December 12, 2000  

Suggested Citation

Brown, Jeffrey R. and Goolsbee, Austan, Does the Internet Make Markets More Competitive? Evidence from the Life Insurance Industry (October 2000). KSG Working Paper No. 00-007. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=253795 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.253795

Contact Information

Jeffrey R. Brown (Contact Author)
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Finance ( email )
1206 South Sixth Street
Champaign, IL 61820
United States
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
University of Illinois College of Law ( email )
504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
United States
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) ( email )
Urbana, IL 61801
United States
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Economics ( email )
410 David Kinley Hall
1407 W. Gregory
Urbana, IL 61801
United States
Austan Goolsbee
University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )
5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-5869 (Phone)
773-702-0458 (Fax)
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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