Paper: Ex-ante Impacts of Agricultural Insurance: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Mali

Anticipating a negative income shock, uninsured households may refrain from undertaking profitable, but risky activities. This ex-ante risk coping strategy is costly in terms of forgone income. Therefore, insuring households so that they are objectively (and subjectively) less exposed to risk can prevent them from adopting these welfare decreasing ex-ante behaviors. To test this hypothesis, we randomly distributed the possibility of being insured and feeling insured to a group of cotton cooperatives in Mali by giving them access to a microinsurance contract.

In a first step, we estimate the average treatment effect of the intervention by comparing the outcomes of households belonging to treated cooperatives to their counterparts in the control group. We find that our randomization instrument had a significant impact on households’ ex-ante behaviors at the extensive margin.

These intention to treat estimates show that offering insurance resulted in a 15% increase in the area in cotton, and a 14% increase in the expenditure on seeds per ha. In addition, as a result of our randomization 22.5% of the treated farmers and 10% of the non-treated farmers knew that they are insured. We measured the impacts of perceived risk reduction and objective risk reduction at the individual level using two instrumental variable strategies. We find that households who felt insured increased their area in cotton by more than 60%.