Design principles for risk-pooling systems

Nat Hum Behav. 2021 Jul;5(7):825-833. doi: 10.1038/s41562-021-01121-9. Epub 2021 May 27.


In times of crisis, risk pooling can enhance the resilience of individuals, households and communities. Risk-pooling systems are most effective when their participants adhere to several principles: (1) participants should agree that the pool is for needs that arise unpredictably, not for routine, predictable needs; (2) giving to those in need should not create an obligation for them to repay; (3) participants should not be expected to help others until they have taken care of their own needs; (4) participants should have a consensus about what constitutes need; (5) resources should be either naturally visible or made visible to reduce cheating; (6) individuals should be able to decide which partners to accept; and (7) the scale of the network should be large enough to cover the scale of risks. We discuss the cultural and evolutionary foundations of risk-pooling systems, their vulnerabilities and their relationship to commercial insurance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anthropology, Cultural
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Humans
  • Risk Management*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Sociological Factors