Characterizing Households' Large (and Small) Stakes Decisions: Evidence from Flood Insurance
61 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2020 Last revised: 6 May 2020
Date Written: December 19, 2019
We examine the flood insurance decisions of over 100,000 households, using standard expected utility models and rank dependent utility models that incorporate probability distortions. Consumers’ insurance choices provide important insights into their risk attitudes. Previous research has typically examined modest stakes choices, such as appliance warranties and deductibles, leaving important questions about larger stakes decisions. Features of U.S. flood insurance allow us to model risk attitudes over large stakes from consumers’ coverage limits. We find that consumers are typically willing to pay premiums well above the expected value of their contracts, though consumers’ decisions vary substantially over large stakes. Explaining these choices with standard expected utility models requires massive variation in risk aversion. In contrast, models incorporating probability distortions greatly improve the ability to predict households’ decisions. These models explain consumers’ choices through their overweighting of small probabilities and can more easily accommodate the observed variation in consumers’ decisions. Our large-stakes choice analyses reveal new insights on models of consumers’ risk preferences.
Keywords: Consumer choice, risk attitudes; insurance; decision making under risk and uncertainty; National Flood Insurance Program
JEL Classification: D12, D78, D81, G22, H42, Q54
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation