Research / Weiss Fund Supported ResearchDec 04, 2018

Time versus State in Insurance: Experimental Evidence from Contract Farming in Kenya

Lorenzo Casaburi, Jack Willis
American Economic Review

The gains from insurance arise from the transfer of income across states. Yet, by requiring that the premium be paid upfront, standard insurance products also transfer income across time. We show that this intertemporal transfer can help explain low insurance demand, especially among the poor, and in a randomized control trial in Kenya we test a crop insurance product which removes it. The product is interlinked with a contract farming scheme: as with other inputs, the buyer of the crop offers the insurance and deducts the premium from farmer revenues at harvest time. The take-up rate for pay-at-harvest insurance is 72 percent, compared to 5 percent for the standard pay-up-front contract, and the difference is largest among poorer farmers. Additional experiments and outcomes provide evidence on the role of liquidity constraints, present bias, and counterparty risk, and find that enabling farmers to commit to pay the premium just one month later increases demand by 21 percentage points.