Formal Insurance, Risk Sharing, and the Dynamics of Other-Regarding Preferences
46 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2018
Date Written: October 26, 2017
In the absence of formal financial markets, many poor households rely on risk sharing networks to protect themselves against adverse events. In this paper we present a model that explains the impact of formal insurance on informal risk sharing and, subsequently, the dynamics of other-regarding preferences. We use a field experiment to test the predictions of the model with rural households in Mexico. Consistent with the model predictions, we find that when shocks are collective, there is a crowding-out effect on transfers and a decrease in trust on insured participants. However, when shocks are idiosyncratic, we fail to confirm the predictions of the model. Transfers to non-insured members are significantly higher when insurance is available to some of the network members than in a control treatment when insurance is not available. This unexpected crowding-in effect on transfers leads to an increase in trust among non-insured participants. These findings suggest that there is a need to find optimal insurance designs that minimizes the crowding-out effect of formal insurance on informal risk sharing and other-regarding preferences.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation