Private Information and Insurance Rejections

Nathaniel Hendren

NBER Working Paper No. 18282
Issued in August 2012
NBER Program(s):   AG   HC   HE   IO   PE

Across a wide set of non-group insurance markets, applicants are rejected based on observable, often high-risk, characteristics. This paper argues private information, held by the potential applicant pool, explains rejections. I formulate this argument by developing and testing a model in which agents may have private information about their risk. I first derive a new no-trade result that theoretically explains how private information could cause rejections. I then develop a new empirical methodology to test whether this no-trade condition can explain rejections. The methodology uses subjective probability elicitations as noisy measures of agents beliefs. I apply this approach to three non-group markets: long-term care, disability, and life insurance. Consistent with the predictions of the theory, in all three settings I find significant amounts of private information held by those who would be rejected; I find generally more private information for those who would be rejected relative to those who can purchase insurance; and I show it is enough private information to explain a complete absence of trade for those who would be rejected. The results suggest private information prevents the existence of large segments of these three major insurance markets.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18282

Published: Nathaniel Hendren, 2013. "Private Information and Insurance Rejections," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(5), pages 1713-1762, 09. citation courtesy of

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