The role of commitment in dynamic contracts: Evidence from life insurance

Igal Hendel, Alessandro Lizzeri

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    We use data on life insurance contracts to study the properties of long-term contracts in a world where buyers cannot commit to a contract. The data are especially suited to test a theory of dynamic contracting since they include information on the entire profile of future premiums. All the patterns in the data fit the theoretical predictions of a model with symmetric learning and one-sided commitment aÌ la Harris and Holmstom. The lack of commitment by consumers shapes contracts in the way predicted by the theory: all contracts involve front-loading (prepayment) of premiums. Front-loading generates a partial lock-in of consumers; more front-loading is associated with lower lapsation. Moreover, contracts that are more front-loaded have a lower present value of premiums over the period of coverage. This is consistent with the idea that front-loading enhances consumer commitment and that more front-loaded contracts retain better risk pools.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)299-327
    Number of pages29
    JournalQuarterly Journal of Economics
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Feb 2003

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Economics and Econometrics


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