September 2022

IZA DP No. 15579: Privatizing Disability Insurance

Public disability insurance (DI) programs in many countries face pressure to reduce their generosity in order to remain sustainable. In this paper, we investigate the welfare effects of giving a larger role to private insurance markets in the face of public DI cuts. Exploiting a unique reform that abolished one part of the German public DI system for younger workers, we find that despite significant crowding-in effects, overall private DI take-up remains modest. We do not find any evidence of adverse selection on unpriced risk. On the contrary, private DI tends to be concentrated among high-income, high-education and low-risk individuals. Using a revealed preferences approach, we estimate individual DI valuations, a key input for welfare calculations. We find that observed willingness-to-pay of many individuals is low, such that providing DI partly via a private insurance market with choice improves welfare. However, we show that distributional concerns as well as individual risk misperceptions can provide grounds for justifying a full public DI mandate.