Uncertain Costs and Vertical Differentiation in an Insurance Duopoly
Staff Working Papers from Bank of Canada
Classical oligopoly models predict that firms differentiate vertically as a way of softening price competition, but some metrics suggest very little quality differentiation in the U.S. auto insurance market. I explain this phenomenon using the fact that risk-averse insurance companies with uncertain costs face incentives to converge to a homogeneous quality. Quality changes are capable of boosting as well as reducing profits, since quality differentiation softens price competition, but also undermines the lower-end firm’s ability to charge the markup commanded by risk aversion. This can make differentiation suboptimal, leading to a homogeneous quality; the outcome depends on consumers’ quality tastes and on how costly quality is. Additional trade-offs between quality costs, profits and profit variances compound this effect, resulting in equilibria at very low quality levels. I argue that this provides one explanation of how insurer competition drove quality down in the nineteenth-century U.S. market for fire insurance.
Keywords: Market structure and pricing; Economic models (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D43 D81 G22 L22 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 41 pages
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-bec, nep-com, nep-ias and nep-ind
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: Track citations by RSS feed
Downloads: (external link)
This item may be available elsewhere in EconPapers: Search for items with the same title.
Export reference: BibTeX
RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan)
Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:bca:bocawp:14-14
Access Statistics for this paper
More papers in Staff Working Papers from Bank of Canada 234 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0G9, Canada. Contact information at EDIRC.
Bibliographic data for series maintained by ().