Insurance and Propagation in Village Networks

Kinnan, Cynthia;
Samphantharak, Krislert;
Aug 2019
We study the dual role of networks in providing insurance and in propagating idiosyncratic shocks by using variation in the timing of severe shocks on health spending experienced by households in Thai villages. We find no impacts on food consumption. Smoothing is largely achieved through local gift and loan networks. However, insurance is partial for some house-holds that need to adjust their production decisions-drawing on their working capital, cutting input spending, and reducing labor hiring, hence propagating the shocks to other households.
We find that upstream businesses close to the underinsured households in the supply chain net-work experience reduced local sales and increased inventories. Likewise, workers closer to the underinsured households in the labor network experience declined probability of working locally and reduced earnings. We find evidence of ex-post adjustments of these upstream households through shifting resources towards activities with lower exposure to local shocks. Our results suggest that social (village-level) gains of expanding health insurance might be higher than private (household-level) gains.