NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Narrow Framing and Life Insurance

Daniel Gottlieb, Kent Smetters

NBER Working Paper No. 18601
Issued in December 2012
NBER Program(s):AG, IO

Life insurance is a large yet poorly understood industry. A final death benefit is not paid for a majority of policies. Insurers make money on customers that lapse their policies and lose money on customers that keep their coverage. Policy loads are inverted relative to the dynamic pattern consistent with reclassification risk insurance. As an industry, insurers lobby to ban secondary markets despite the liquidity provided. These (and other) stylized facts cannot easily be explained by information problems alone. We demonstrate that a simple model of narrow framing, where consumers do not fully account for their need for future liquidity when purchasing insurance, offers a simple and unified explanation.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18601

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