Emmanuelle Auriol, Julie Lassébie, Amma Panin, Eva Raiber, Paul Seabright, 19 September 2020

The Pentecostal church is one of the fastest-growing segments of Christianity, including in sub-Saharan Africa. The church makes a strong and explicit link between ‘giving to God’ and future wellbeing; donations can be seen as a form of insurance for the future. This column tests how formal market-based insurance affects the demand for informal church-based insurance in Accra, Ghana. People enrolled in a formal insurance policy give less money to their church and to other charitable organisations.

Richard Blundell, Margherita Borella, Jeanne Commault, Mariacristina De Nardi, 11 September 2020

As populations age in many countries, the risks associated with health shocks become increasingly important. Health shocks can affect consumption by changing a household’s available resources and/or the marginal utilities of different goods. This column quantifies the response of consumption to health shocks and uses a structural model to disentangle the two mechanisms above. It shows that temporary changes in health are associated with significant changes in non-durable consumption, with stronger effects in low-wealth households. In addition, the marginal utility channel is significantly stronger in explaining these effects than through households’ resources. 


This conference focuses on the core questions facing the insurance industry today, as the sector undergoes changes which will fundamentally transform the behaviour of providers, brokers and consumers alike. Looking at how digital disruption and innovation will impact insurance going forward, this conference explores key themes ranging from how regulators will strike a balance between regulation and modernisation, to the ethics of insurance pricing. In doing so, we consider the wide range of ethical, political and legal considerations which the industry should be aware of. To ensure a varied and lively discussion, the conference will provide the opportunity for delegates to hear from leading figures - in both the industry and the wider policy landscape – allowing a diverse spectrum of views to be considered on a wide range of issues.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019
Stationers’ Hall, London EC4

Michael Keane, 26 May 2019

Launched in 2006, Medicare Part D allows beneficiaries to enrol in subsidised drug coverage plans sold by private insurers, but navigating the different plans can be complex and lead to sub-optimal choices. This column uses Medicare administrative data for 2006-2010 to understand the quality of consumer decision-making in the Part D marketplace. It finds that the vast majority of elderly place too much weight on premiums relative to out-of-pocket costs, care a great deal about the particular combination of plan features, and are highly likely to choose the same plan every year regardless of changes in prices and alternatives.

Carlos Vegh, Guillermo Vuletin, Daniel Riera-Crichton, Juan Pablo Medina, Diego Friedheim, Luis Morano, Lucila Venturi Grosso, 14 November 2018

Emerging markets are especially vulnerable to a myriad of domestic and external risks. This column develops a framework to classify these risks based on their predictability and, hence, their insurability. As the probability of relatively large events increases, it becomes more difficult to insure against such risks. In the extreme case in which countries face truly unpredictable and impactful events (or ‘black swans’), they must rely on building broad-based resilience or resorting to ex-post aid. 

Andrew Ellul, 05 July 2018

Systemic risk has been a cause for growing concern since the onset of the Global Crisis. Andrew Ellul explains his research on the lending side of systemic risk creation, which address the types of investments financial institutions make. These investments have shifted towards equity markets, which are riskier and less liquid, and more interconnected - all of which amplifies risk in crisis.

Andrew Ellul, Chotibhak Jotikasthira, Anastasia Kartasheva, Christian Lundblad, Wolf Wagner, 05 June 2018

Systemic risk analyses have largely focused on the linkages among financial institutions’ funding arrangements, but there are increasing connections between insurers and the rest of the financial system. This column explores how systemic risk can originate from insurers’ business models. In the event of negative asset shocks, insurers’ collective allocation to illiquid bonds leads to an amplification of system-wide fire sales. These dynamics can plausibly erase up to 20-70% of insurers’ aggregate equity capital.

Tessa Bold, Tobias Broer, 16 February 2017

The substantial literature examining risk-sharing practices in rural villages in developing countries has typically taken the social institutions in these communities as given. Using data from India, this column challenges this assumption by showing how the costs and benefits of risk-sharing arrangements can shape these social institutions. The results suggest that the size and nature of these risk-sharing groups may evolve over time as their environment changes. Public policy to reduce consumption fluctuations can be counterproductive in the standard model because of a strong crowding-out effect.

Felix Hufeld, Ralph Koijen, Christian Thimann, 30 January 2017

Despite the importance of insurance, discussions about the macroeconomic role and the risks of insurance markets have been surprisingly limited. This column explores some of the key theoretical and conceptual questions still unanswered in this field, and suggests that a two-fold approach combining a focus on individual firms and an activity-based approach across the sector is needed to tackle systemic risk within the insurance industry.

Christopher Boone, Arindrajit Dube, Lucas Goodman, Ethan Kaplan, 08 January 2017

The Unemployment Insurance programme in the US was significantly expanded during between 2008 and 2014. This column examines the effect of unemployment insurance duration on aggregate employment during the Great Recession using state-level expansions and contractions in insurance generosity. It finds a positive but not statistically significant employment impact of expanding the insurance. This suggests that the substantial insurance value of the extensions during the Great Recession was not offset in any meaningful way by any costs from weaker job growth.  

Frank Caliendo, Maria Casanova, Aspen Gorry, Sita Nataraj Slavov, 16 November 2016

Not knowing when you are going to retire can make it hard to plan both savings and consumption in old age. This column examines how much uncertainty people face over their retirement and how costly this is as they attempt to make optimal saving plans. It argues that current structure of the Social Security retirement and disability programmes in the US does not provide much insurance against this uncertainty.

Katherine Ho, Robin Lee, 16 September 2016

The US health insurance market is becoming less competitive due to mergers and withdrawal of services from certain states. This column examines how this affects consumers through insurance premiums and hospital reimbursement rates. Using employer-sponsored insurance data from California, it finds that the relationship between insurer competition and health care spending depends on institutional and market structure.  If premiums can be constrained through effective regulation or negotiation, then reduced competition might lead to lower costs. Absent such constraints, consumers will likely be harmed.

Gaston Gelos, Nico Valckx, 27 July 2016

In recent years, the life insurance sector has become more systemically important across advanced economies. This increase is largely due to growing common exposures and to insurers’ rising interest rate sensitivity. This column analyses the evolution of the insurance sector’s contribution to systemic risk. Overall, life insurers do not seem to have markedly changed their asset portfolios toward riskier assets, although smaller and weaker insurers in some countries have taken on more risk. The findings suggest that supervisors and regulators should take a more macroprudential approach to the sector.

Christian Thimann, 31 May 2016

The IMF’s latest Global Financial Stability Report devotes for the first time a chapter to the systemic risks potentially associated with the insurance sector and how regulatory bodies should respond. This column examines the key points and proposes a way forward for the global regulatory framework for insurance. In particular, it argues for the importance of not treating the sector in the same way as the banking sector as the two operate very different business models. Similarly, for an activity-based approach, a regulatory focus on just nine ‘systemically important’ insurers rather than the sector as a whole is flawed.

Avinash Persaud, 14 April 2016

Since the breakup of Bretton Woods in the early 1970s, the housing market has been at the centre of the biggest banking crises across the world. This column considers the nexus between housing, banking, and the economy, and how these ties can be broken. It argues for two modest regulatory changes in banking and insurance. These would result in life insurers and pension funds providing mortgage finance, better insulating the economy and homeowners from the housing cycle.

Savannah Bergquist, Joan Costa-Font, Katherine Swartz, 10 July 2015

Limited insurance for long-term care threatens the sustainability of publicly funded social assistance programmes such as Medicaid in the US. This column looks at the effectiveness of a programme that encourages middle-income people to save for possible long-term care expenses. The evidence so far indicates that although this programme has indeed increased insurance applications, it has not increased insurance uptake.

Jason Furman, Ron Shadbegian, Jim Stock, 25 February 2015

The cost of delaying climate action has been studied extensively. This column discusses new findings based on a meta-analysis of published model runs. A one-decade delay in addressing climate change would lead to about a 40% increase in the net present value cost of addressing climate change. If anything, the methodology used in this analysis could understate the cost of delay. Uncertainty and the possibility of tipping points provide a motivation for more action as a form of insurance against worse outcomes.

Claudio Michelacci, Hernán Ruffo, 18 November 2014

Like any insurance mechanism, unemployment benefits involve a trade-off between risk sharing and moral hazard. Whereas previous studies have concluded that unemployment insurance is close to optimal in the US, this column argues that replacement rates should vary over the life cycle. Young people typically have little means to smooth consumption during a spell of unemployment, while the moral hazard problems are minor – regardless of replacement rates, the young want jobs to improve their lifetime career prospects and to build up human capital.

Kuniyoshi Saito, Daisuke Tsuruta, 14 November 2014

In Japan, loans with 100% guarantees account for more than half of all loans covered by public credit guarantee schemes, but banks claim that they do not offer loans without sufficient screening and monitoring even if the loans are guaranteed. This column presents evidence of adverse selection and moral hazard in Japanese credit guarantee schemes. The problem is less severe for loans with 80% guarantees.

Christian Thimann, 17 October 2014

Having completed the regulatory framework for systemically important banks, the Financial Stability Board is turning to insurance companies. The emerging framework for insurers closely resembles that for banks, culminating in the design and calibration of capital surcharges. This column argues that the contrasting business models and balance sheet structures of insurers and banks – and the different roles of capital, leverage, and risk absorption in the two sectors – mean that the banking model of capital cannot be applied to insurance. Tools other than capital surcharges may be more appropriate to address possible concerns of systemic risk. 



CEPR Policy Research