Trust in Risk Sharing: A Double-Edged Sword

The Review of Economic Studies

Volume 90, Issue 4, July 2023

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We analyse efficient risk-sharing arrangements when the value from deviating is determined endogenously by another risk-sharing arrangement. Coalitions form to insure against idiosyncratic income risk. Self-enforcing contracts for both the original coalition and any coalition formed (joined) after deviations rely on a belief in future cooperation which we term “trust”. We treat the contracting conditions of original and deviation coalitions symmetrically and show that higher trust tightens incentive constraints since it facilitates the formation of deviating coalitions. As a consequence, although trust facilitates the initial formation of coalitions, the extent of risk sharing in successfully formed coalitions is declining in the extent of trust and efficient allocations might feature resource burning or utility burning: trust is indeed a double-edged sword.