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Explanation of The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Insurance Initiative

Insurance Initiative

The Chicago Fed Insurance Initiative aims to understand the role of the insurance industry in the overall economy, with an emphasis on the industry’s role in the financial sector. We feel that deeper knowledge of the insurance industry will have payoffs for both policy and research. Our goal is to be a source of expertise within the Federal Reserve System for issues related to insurance. While our focus is broad, we also recognize the important role of the insurance industry in the Seventh Federal Reserve District.

The Initiative involves documenting and tracking the relationship between the insurance industry and the broader economy. In particular, we are analyzing and assessing the transmission of financial shocks to and from the insurance industry. To accomplish these objectives, we are developing a set of tools, such as regularly updated industry indicators, to assess the health of the industry. In addition, we are producing reports, based on our in-depth analysis of specific aspects of the industry. Our findings draw on analysis of regulatory and accounting data in combination with insights gained from in-depth conversations with experts in the insurance and financial industries.

The Insurance Initiative is motivated by the importance of the insurance industry in the overall economy, as well as the key role the industry plays for households and financial markets:

The Economy

  • The insurance industry accounts for approximately 3% of annual GDP.
  • The industry employs 2.2 million individuals in the U.S.


  • 70% of U.S. households in 2010 had some form of life insurance.
  • Life insurers paid out $419 billion in life insurance and annuity benefits in 2009.

Financial Sector

  • Insurance companies are a critical source of funding for corporations, as well as for city and state governments: Insurance companies hold 20% of all corporate and foreign bonds and 15% of all municipal debt.
We believe that the quality of our analysis is significantly enhanced through discussions with industry and financial sector experts. By talking to a broad range of experts, we gain a variety of perspectives on the issues and risks facing the industry. This ensures that our conclusions take into account multiple viewpoints.

Featured Publications

How Do Property and Casualty Insurers Manage Risk? The Role of Reinsurance 
Andy Polacek
Chicago Fed Letter
 2015, No. 334 

Derivatives and Collateral at U.S. Life Insurers
Kyal Berends and Thomas King
Economic Perspectives
2015, First Quarter

AIG in Hindsight 
Robert McDonald and Anna Paulson
Working Paper
No. 2014-07

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