Professor Alma Cohen receives award for research ‘that has stood the test of time’

The American Risk and Insurance Association has announced that “Testing for Adverse Selection in Insurance Markets,” a study co-authored by Harvard Law School Professor Alma Cohen and Peter Siegelman, a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, is the recipient of its 2020 Robert I. Mehr Award. The award—granted each year to a study published ten years earlier in the Association’s Journal of Risk and Insurance (JRI)—recognizes studies that have “best stood the test of time” in the decade since publication. Cohen’s research has been cited more than 400 times since it was published in February 2010.

The study—which evaluates the empirical literature on adverse selection in insurance markets—was selected by the 2020 editorial board of the JRI for this year’s Mehr Award.

In 2011, the study also won the association’s Robert C. Witt Award for the best article published in the JRI during the preceding year. Thus, the article was selected as the best article published in 2010 in JRI both from a one-year and a ten-year perspective by the editors of the JRI serving at each point in time.

The authors focus on empirical work that seeks to test the basic coverage–risk prediction of adverse selection theory—that is, that policyholders who purchase more insurance coverage tend to be riskier. They argue that the analysis of this body of work indicates that the existence of such correlation varies across insurance markets and pools of insurance policies, further exploring  reasons why a coverage–risk correlation may not be found in some pools of insurance policies. The article provides a framework for predicting and understanding when the risk of policyholders and the insurance coverage they purchase are associated. It then evaluates based on this framework the body of empirical evidence on the subject.

An applied empirical economist, Cohen was appointed a professor of empirical practice at Harvard Law School in 2014. Previously, she taught at the Tel-Aviv University Department of Economics, where she served as an associate professor (with tenure). From 2009-2011, she served as the William K. Jacobs Visiting Professor of Law and Economics at HLS.