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Income Shocks and Household Risk-Coping Strategies:
Evidence from rural Vietnam

Fiona Wainwright and Carol Newman

IIIS Discussion Paper No. 358

This paper considers the various strategies rural households employ to avoid consumption shortfalls caused by realizations of adverse income shocks. First, we develop an ex post theoretical model within an inter-temporal utility maximizing framework which we use to explain households’ decisions to insure against idiosyncratic risk and save to protect against uninsurable spatially covariant risk. In
the theoretical model we show that the latter can take a variety of different asset forms depending on the absolute level of risk aversion of the household and the variability in asset returns. Second, using household level panel data from Vietnam we test the extent to which households’ smooth consumption over time and how this depends on the presence of insurance and saving instruments. Third, we consider savings and liquid asset holdings as a form of self-insurance or precautionary savings against spatially covariant shocks. Overall, our results suggest that households deplete their stock of total liquid assets in the event of exposure to both exogenous and idiosyncratic income shocks. The ability of households to cope is also dependent on their receipt of public and private transfers in the event of an exogenous natural shock with insurance claims serving to alleviate the depletion of livestock holdings in the event of insurable idiosyncratic income shocks. These results are particularly pronounced for low and middle wealth groups.

Key Words: Insurance, precautionary savings, risk-coping, income shocks
JEL Codes: D14, D91, O12, O16


Last updated 28 August 2014 by IIIS (Email).