SAFE Working Paper No. 40

Life Insurance Demand under Health Shock Risk

This paper studies the life cycle consumption-investment-insurance problem of a family. The wage earner faces the risk of a health shock that significantly increases his probability of dying. The family can buy long-term life insurance that can only be revised at significant costs, which makes insurance decisions sticky. Furthermore, a revision is only possible as long as the insured person is healthy. A second important feature of our model is that the labor income of the wage earner is unspanned. We document that the combination of unspanned labor income and the stickiness of insurance decisions reduces the long-term insurance demand significantly. This is because an income shock induces the need to reduce the insurance coverage, since premia become less affordable. Since such a reduction is costly and families anticipate these potential costs, they buy less protection at all ages. In particular, young families stay away from long-term life insurance markets altogether. Our results are robust to adding short-term life insurance, annuities and health insurance.