Are People Insured Against Natural Disasters? Evidence from the Great Hanshin-Awaji (Kobe) Earthquake in 1995



We investigate whether people were insured against unexpected losses caused by the Great Hanshin-Awaji (Kobe) earthquake in 1995. The unique household data employed led to several empirical findings under a natural-experimental situation. The complete consumption insurance hypothesis is rejected overwhelmingly, suggesting the ineffectiveness of the formal and/or informal insurance mechanisms against the earthquake. We also investigate possible factors that inhibit full risk-sharing. Transfers may be particularly ineffective as insurance against losses for co-resident households. Households borrow extensively against housing damages, whereas dissavings are utilized for smaller asset damages, implying a hierarchy of risk-coping measures, from dissaving to borrowing.