Heterogeneity, Risk Sharing and the Welfare Costs of Risk

TitleHeterogeneity, Risk Sharing and the Welfare Costs of Risk
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsSchulhofer-Wohl, SA
Date Published2007
UniversityThe University of Chicago
Call Numbernewpubs20071002_Schulhofer-Wohl.pdf
KeywordsEmployment and Labor Force, Insurance, Public Policy, Risk Taking

How well do people share risk? Do non-market institutions – charity, progressive taxes, transfer payments – make up for the lack of complete insurance markets? Or is risk sharing far worse than what complete markets could achieve? Standard risk-sharing regressions assume that any variation in households' risk preferences is uncorrelated with variation in income. I combine administrative and survey data with a simple model of imperfect insurance to show that this assumption fails; risktolerant workers sort into jobs where earnings carry more aggregate risk. The correlation makes previous risk-sharing regressions too pessimistic. I derive techniques that eliminate the bias, apply them to U.S. data, and find that the welfare losses from uninsured shocks are practically small and statistically difficult to distinguish from zero. In addition, because more risk-tolerant people bear more aggregate risk, the welfare costs of macroeconomic fluctuations are small even for arbitrarily riskaverse households. There is little room to improve households' welfare by smoothing idiosyncratic or aggregate shocks unless smoothing shocks also allows households to choose more productive occupations.

Endnote Keywords


Endnote ID


Short TitleHeterogeneity, Risk Sharing and the Welfare Costs of Risk
Citation Key6083