We investigate risk-sharing without commitment by designing an experiment to match a simple model of voluntary insurance between two agents when aggregate income is constant. Participants are matched in pairs. Each period, they receive their income with or without a random component h that one person or the other receives; after observing own and counterpart income, each person in a pair can decide to make a transfer to the other person. It is common information that there is a given probability that all pairs will be dissolved at the end of each period, with participants re-matched. At the end of the experiment, one period is randomly drawn to count for cash payment. Participants all face the same variance in their income, but do not necessarily have the same mean income. This setting allows us to experimentally test different implications of risk-sharing without commitment. In particular, we find strong evidence of risk-sharing and reciprocal behavior, where transfers are higher with a higher continuation probability and with a higher degree of risk aversion. However, transfers are lower with inequality, in contrast with existing models of both risk-sharing and social preferences.
experiments, gift exchange, informal insurance, risk-sharing, social preferences.
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