DP11612 Under-Insurance in Human Capital Models with Limited Enforcement

Author(s): Tom Krebs, Moritz Kuhn, Mark L.J. Wright
Publication Date: November 2016
Keyword(s): Human Capital Risk, Insurance, Limited Enforcement
JEL(s): D52, E21, E24, J24
Programme Areas: Monetary Economics and Fluctuations
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=11612

This paper uses a macroeconomic model calibrated to U.S. data to show that limited contract enforcement leads to substantial under-insurance against human capital risk. The model economy is populated by a large number of risk-averse households who can invest in risk-free physical capital and risky human capital. Expected human capital returns are age-dependent and calibrated to match the observed life-cycle profile of median labor income. Households have access to a complete set of credit and insurance contracts, but their ability to use the available financial instruments is limited by the possibility of default (limited contract enforcement). According to the baseline calibration, young households are severely under-insured against human capital (labor income) risk and the welfare losses due to the lack of insurance are substantial. These results are robust to realistic variations in parameter values.