United States: Life Insurance Industry's Patient Capital Is A Driver Of Economic Growth And Stability, According To Report By Brattle Economists

Last Updated: October 18 2016
Article by Michael I. Cragg, Bin Zhou and Jehan DeFonseka

A report co-authored by Brattle economists finds that the life insurance industry is a critical driver of economic growth that helps provide stability for the U.S. economy while delivering financial protection to millions of American families, including those most vulnerable to falling below the poverty line.

"Life insurers are vital to an efficiently functioning modern economy and society, and a key contributor to enabling robust long-term economic growth," writes Dr. J. David Cummins, the Joseph E. Boettner Chair of Risk Management and Insurance at Temple University's Fox School of Business. "Life insurers invest predominantly in long-term, stable, fixed-income investments to match their long-term obligations to the insureds."

The study, "The Social and Economic Contributions of the Life Insurance Industry," explains the industry's roles, and uses industry data and academic research to highlight the industry's contributions to the U.S. economy and society from three perspectives: to individuals, to the economy, and to the government. The study was sponsored by MetLife and co-authored by Dr. Cummins, Brattle Principals Drs. Michael Cragg and Bin Zhou, and Senior Associate Jehan deFonseka.

A Shield against Financial Loss for Individuals

According to the report, 60 percent of American households are covered by some form of life insurance, with an average policy coverage amount of nearly three times the annual household income. The total amount of financial protection provided by the life insurance industry in 2014 was $20.1 trillion – an amount equal to 116 percent of the U.S. economy.

The study cites research showing that the purchase of life insurance has a positive impact on an individual's living standards. For example, following the death of primary earners, life insurance reduces the percentage of households experiencing severe financial deterioration from 33 percent (without life insurance) to just six percent (with life insurance).

On retirement security, the report highlights research showing that the private annuity market increases household net worth. Without private annuities, individuals have no way to hedge the risk of outliving their retirement savings except by consuming less and investing more in risky investments. For instance, a household headed by a 65-year-old in good health experiences a 16 percent increase in financial and housing wealth due to an investment in annuities, according to the research.

A Stabilizing Component of the U.S. Economy

The life insurance industry also provides a stable source of funding for the credit markets, with private companies in all sectors of the economy relying on this funding channel. Fully 93 percent of the corporate bonds held by life insurers have a maturity greater than five years, and more than two-thirds have a maturity greater than 10 years.

This long-term focus has an added benefit – it makes life insurers an important source of financial stability during periods of broader market turmoil. Commercial banks and broker-dealers that rely on short-term wholesale funding are susceptible to liquidity crises. With life insurers, stable funding from policyholders greatly reduces the need for liquidity during financial panics. The paper quotes Therese Vaughan, former president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, who said in 2012, "Life insurers can manage through [financial crisis] volatility and look to the long term, and this difference provides an important source of stability for both individual consumers and financial markets."

Life insurers are also an especially important source of capital for privately held companies, which tend to be smaller enterprises that find the public markets expensive to access. In 2014, life insurers held nearly $800 billion in private placement debt. Without the life insurance industry, "these investments could not be funded at all or as efficiently, thus driving up the average cost of capital and causing reduced investment," the authors write.

Government and Taxpayer Benefits

The life insurance industry also provides a benefit to the government and taxpayers by alleviating pressure on social spending. From 2010 to 2014, the life insurance industry distributed $774 billion in contract payments, including life insurance benefits, income payments from annuities, and disability income payment.

Using data from the American Council of Life Insurers, the study also highlights the economic impacts of the life insurance industry in all 50 states. These impacts include benefits paid, total in-force coverage, number of policies, average coverage amount, total investments, and direct jobs supported. In 2014, the life insurance industry paid over $500 billion in benefits to Americans, invested in over $5 trillion investments, and employed more than 870,000 people across the U.S.

"Life insurance is an important component of the U.S. economy," notes Dr. Bin Zhou. "It plays a unique role not only in the safety and security it provides to individuals, but in the stability and liquidity it provides to the financial markets and the overall economy. Furthermore, the life insurance industry significantly alleviates the financial burden caused by mortality, longevity, and morbidity risks for individual households and the U.S. government."

The whitepaper can be downloaded using the link below.

The Social and Economic Contributions of the Life Insurance Industry

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.