Monday, September 12, 2016

Adverse Selection, the ACA, and Criminal Records

The Economist Magazine is devoting space to explaining some fundamental economic ideas.  They begin with information asymmetry, which leads to adverse selection, the topic of chapter 19.

Information asymmetry remains a tricky problem for policymakers. Adverse selection is plaguing America’s Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare”. Fewer healthy people than expected have signed up to the government-sponsored insurance exchanges, which limit how much premiums can vary with risk. Insurers are making losses; as a result, they are raising prices substantially (or pulling out altogether). Critics say those price rises will drive away more healthy customers, leading to a “death spiral”. Information economics should also give pause to the “ban the box” campaign, which seeks to forbid employers from asking about job-applicants’ criminal records prior to interview. Having no criminal record is a positive signal; removing that information makes information asymmetry worse. Recent research suggests that banning the box causes American firms to discriminate by race, such that employment of low-skilled black and Hispanic men falls. Adverse selection indeed.

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