Individuals’ risk preferences may change after experiencing external socio-economic or natural shocks. Theoretical predictions and empirical studies suggest that risk taking may increase or decrease after experiencing shocks. So far the empirical evidence is sparse, especially when it comes to developed countries. We contribute to this literature by investigating whether experiencing financial and health-related damage caused by storms affects risk preferences of individuals in Germany. Using unique panel data, we find that household heads were more risk-seeking after they experienced storm damage. We do not find evidence of exposure to storm per se (regardless of damage experience), which suggests that household heads have to suffer damage for their risk preferences to be affected. These results are robust across a battery of alternative model specifications and alternative storm damage measures (magnitude of financial damage). We rule out other potential explanations such as health-related and economic shocks. The self-reported storm damage data is broadly confirmed by regional storm damage data provided by the insurance industry. While we cannot identify the channels through which experiencing storm damage affects risk preferences from our data, we suggest and discuss some potential channels. The results may have important policy implications as risk preferences affect, for instance, individuals’ savings and investment behaviour, adoption of self-protection and self-insurance strategies, and technology adoption.
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