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Do Hypothetical Experiences Affect Real Financial Decisions? Evidence from Insurance Take-up

Cai, Jing and Song, Changcheng (2013): Do Hypothetical Experiences Affect Real Financial Decisions? Evidence from Insurance Take-up.

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Abstract

This paper uses a novel experimental design to study the effect of hypothetical personal experience on the adoption of a new insurance product in rural China. Specifically, we conduct a set of insurance games with a random subset of farmers. Our findings show that playing insurance games improves insurance take-up in real life by 48%. Exploring the mechanism behind this effect, we show that the effect is not driven by changes in risk attitudes, changes in perceived probability of disasters, or learning of insurance benefits, but is driven mainly by the experience acquired in playing the insurance game. Moreover, we find that, compared with experience with real disasters in the previous year, the hypothetical experience gained in the insurance game has a stronger effect on insurance take-up, implying that the impact of personal experience displays a strong recency effect.

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