NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

You Only Die Once: Managing Discrete Interdependent Risks

Geoffrey Heal, Howard Kunreuther

NBER Working Paper No. 9885
Issued in August 2003

This paper extends our earlier analysis of interdependent security issues to a general class of problems involving discrete interdependent risks with heterogeneous agents. There is a threat of an event that can only happen once, and the risk depends on actions taken by others. Any agent's incentive to invest in managing the risk depends on the actions of others. Security problems at airlines and in computer networks come into this category, as do problems of risk management in organizations facing the possibility of bankruptcy, and individuals' choices about whether to be vaccinated against an infectious disease. Surprisingly the framework also covers certain aspects of investment in R&D. Here we characterize Nash equilibria with heterogeneous agents and give conditions for tipping and cascading of equilibria.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w9885

Published: Richardson, H.W., P. Gordon and J.E. Moore II (eds.) The Economic Impacts of Terrorist Attacks. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2005.

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