May 13

Managing Basis Risk with Multiscale Index Insurance

That’s the title of my article with Ghada Elabed, Michael Carter, and Catherine Guirkinger, which was just published online in Agricultural Economics. Here is the abstract:

Agricultural index insurance indemnifies a farmer against losses based on an index that is correlated with, but not identical to, her or his individual outcomes. In practice, the level of correlation may be modest, exposing insured farmers to residual, basis risk. In this article, we study the impact of basis risk on the demand for index insurance under risk and compound risk aversion. We simulate the impact of basis risk on the demand for index insurance by Malian cotton farmers using data from field experiments that reveal the distributions of risk and compound risk aversion. The analysis shows that compound risk aversion depresses demand for a conventional index insurance contract some 13 percentage points below what would be predicted based on risk aversion alone. We then analyze an innovative multiscale index insurance contract that reduces basis risk relative to conventional, single-scale index insurance contract. Simulations indicate that demand for this multiscale contract would be some 40% higher than the demand for an equivalently priced conventional contract in the population of Malian cotton farmers. Finally, we report and discuss the actual uptake of a multiscale contract introduced in Mali.

The article discusses the index insurance contract my coauthors and I have developed for and sold to cotton producer cooperatives in southern Mali. The rest of this post is more technical, as it goes into the details of the two contributions I’ve highlighted above. Continue reading →

Dec 12

Managing Basis Risk with Index Insurance in West Africa

Exposure to risk is one of life’s few certitudes. For people who live in developing countries, where underdevelopment almost always extends to financial markets, and where financial instruments to hedge against risk are fewer and further between than in industrialized countries, risk is even more prevalent. The rise of microfinance over the last 20 years has brought about the development of financial instruments designed to protect the poor against some of the risk they face. We first develop an innovative index insurance contract for West African cotton producers, whose harvests are highly variable. The main feature of this contract is that relative to commonly used index insurance contracts, it considerably reduces the basis risk faced by West African cotton producers. We then describe an ongoing evaluation of the impacts of the double-trigger insurance contract in Mali and Burkina Faso. Continue reading →

Sep 12

The Third Pillar of Microfinance: Insurance for the Poor in Developing Countries

Over the last few years, index insurance has been receiving an increasing amount of attention from researchers and policy makers.

Whereas regular insurance pays out when a verifiable loss is incurred (e.g., flood insurance pays out when there has been a flood), whether an index insurance pays out depends on whether some index crosses a certain threshold. So for example, a rainfall index insurance for the agricultural producers in a given region would pay out when growing conditions in that region are too dry, i.e., when rainfall falls below a specific, predetermined threshold.

The beauty of index insurance is that it greatly reduces the scope for moral hazard. Indeed, if I insure your crop, you might well decide to neglect your field, do nothing for the entire season, and wait for me to give you a payout. Not so with index insurance, since the index (e.g., rainfall, temperature, etc.) is typically very difficult to manipulate. Continue reading →