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The Explicit Costs of Government Deposit Insurance

26 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2012 Last revised: 12 Apr 2014

Thomas L. Hogan

Troy University

William J. Luther

Kenyon College; American Institute for Economic Research

Date Written: August 31, 2013


The Diamond–Dybvig model is often cited as a theoretical justification for government-provided deposit insurance. Guaranteeing bank deposits removes the temptation for individual depositors to run on the bank and thereby precludes the need to ever use the deposit insurance. Hence, deposit insurance provides a costless solution to the threat of bank runs. In practice, however, government-provided deposit insurance is not a costless solution as it is frequently invoked to cover the losses of failed banks. We maintain that potential alternatives to government deposit insurance should be compared to the current system rather than to a theoretically optimal system of insurance. Focusing on the FDIC, we consider the differences between deposit insurance in theory and practice, review how the explicit cost of providing deposit insurance has changed over time, and consider implicit costs from taxpayer backing and suboptimal assessment rates.

Keywords: Actuarially fair, Bank failures, Comparative Institutional Analysis, Deposit insurance, Diamond-Dybvig, FDIC

JEL Classification: E44, G28, G21

Suggested Citation

Hogan, Thomas L. and Luther, William J., The Explicit Costs of Government Deposit Insurance (August 31, 2013). Cato Journal, Vol. 34 (1) pp.145-170, Winter 2014. Available at SSRN: or

Thomas Hogan

Troy University ( email )

Troy, AL
United States

William Luther (Contact Author)

Kenyon College ( email )

Gambier, OH 43022
United States


American Institute for Economic Research

PO Box 1000
Great Barrington, MA 01230
United States

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