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Purchasing Insurance (PDF)


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									Husband-Wife Decision Making in Purchasing and Renewing Auto Insurance
Author(s): Terry L. Childers and O. C. Ferrell
Source: The Journal of Risk and Insurance, Vol. 48, No. 3 (Sep., 1981), pp. 482-493
Published by: American Risk and Insurance Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/252725
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 Husband-Wife Decision Making in Purchasing
        and Renewing Auto Insurance
                       Terry L. Childersand 0. C. Ferrell
      Intrafamilydecisionmakingrelativeto autoinsurance   purchasing examined a
                                                                    was         for
    U.S. sampleof 1,327 families. The husbandwas foundto be primarily  responsiblefor
    makingtwo of the more important auto insurance   decisions companyselectionand
    premium                                  in
            payment.Thewife's involvement thesedecisionswasfoundto be contingent
    on hercontribution thefamily'sfinancial  resources.A highdegreeof consistencywas
    foundbetweenthe family membermakingthese two decisions. Consistencywas also
    observedbetween the attitudinal measuresof decision responsibilityand behavioral
    surrogates decisionmakinginvolvement.Consideration bothfamily membersin
             of                                              of
    developingadvertising personal
                         and                           in
                                      selling strategies the autoinsurance
    suggestedand implicationsfor furtherresearchare discussed.
   Much of the literature on household purchasing behavior in insurance has
sought to identify correlates of consumption or expenditures. This research has
associated insurance purchasing behavior with various demographic and
socioeconomic variables [ 1, 3, 10] . Household characteristics such as income,
numberof children, age, and total assets were found to be significant explanatory
variables when associated with insurance premium expenditures and the amount
of insurance purchased. Comparatively less research has dealt with in-
trahousehold interaction in the purchase of insurance. The differential influence
of the husband and wife however, has been noted in several studies. In one
insurance study, presence of the wife at the sales interview was associated with a
considerably higher rate of sales [13]. In another study, it was found that the
family was less likely to purchase life insurance if the husband and wife discussed
the insurance purchase without the agent present [16].
   While these studies dealt with household purchasing behavior for life insur-
ance, only limited research has been conducted on husband-wife interaction in
purchasingauto insurance [6, 17]. Auto insurance, however, has become a major
household expenditure with a recent survey [2] showing that almost half of the
insurance consumers pay in excess of $300 annually for auto insurance. During
1976, consumers paid almost $24 billion in auto insurance premiums. In
addition, while life insurance is usually an optional purchase, auto insurance in a
majority of states is one of the principal methods of satisfying state financial
responsibility laws when operating a motor vehicle, while in several other states
purchase of auto insurance is compulsory. These factors indicate the need to
study the purchase of auto insurance and in particularthe involvement of family
members during purchase and renewal.
  TerryL. Childersis in the Universityof Wisconsingraduate                      is
                                                          school and0. C. Ferrell in the
Department Marketingand Management Illinois State University.

                      Purchasing and Renewing Auto Insurance                             483

   The purpose of this study was to conduct research on the responsibilities
possessed by the husband and wife in making decisions relative to premium
payment and insurance company selection. Results should lend insight into
understanding the role(s) each family member occupies in the family auto
insurance decision making process which should enable the development of
more effective advertising and personal selling insurance strategies.

Husband-Wije Decision Process
    Most studies of the role(s) of each family member in decision making focus
on marital dyad perceptions of decision making for selected products. How-
ever, problems relating to the definition of the appropriate decisions and
tasks, the relevant decision making unit, and different measurement tech-
niques make it difficult to generalize results about family decision making to
other products and services, such as auto insurance.
    One might hypothesize that the outcomes of many family decisions bear
little consequence to the family's resources and thus are often partialled out on
an autonomic decision making basis. However, for financial products such as
auto insurance, the importance of the purchase decision is manifested by its
effect on other family resources [15].1 Considering the amount and the
recurrent nature of this premium, the financial importance of the purchase
decision appears substantial. Regardless of the importance of the auto insur-
ance decision; role differentiation, stage of the decision process, and in-
trafamily power relationships could influence auto insurance decisions.
    Davis and Rigaux [6] found that insurance purchases are typically
husband-dominant. Hempel [1 1], Ferber and Lee [8], Sheth [18], and Wood-
side [2] provide additional insight on family buying roles for other products.
These studies relate demographics, psychographics, and social networks to
intrafamily decision processes. Still, as noted by Davis [5] in a recent critique
of the literature, research studies have just begun to examine the impact of the
household on consumer behavior. Consumers are still too often viewed as
individual decision makers despite common sense observations that the fam-
ily is the relevant decision making unit. Those household studies that have
been conducted on comparable products, such as auto insurance, suffer from a
piecemeal approach due to diverse and often incomparable sets of in-
trahousehold measures and concepts. Therefore, it is difficult to use these
findings on family decision making in strategic planning.

  'Bonham [ 15] proposedthatthe importanceof a family decision could be determined      using
the relationship:
                            Importance = Cost of Decision
                                           Available Resources
The amount of family resources (wealth) and whether there is an adequate substitutefor a
particularproductbothgreatlyinfluence importance.Withthe substantial    annualpremiumpaid
by most families and the limited alternativesavailable for spreadingrisk, the inelasticityand
thus the importanceof the purchase decision would appearsubstantial.
484                    The Joturnal of Risk and Insurance

                              Research Design
  During January 1977, 1,327 families across the United States were mailed
a four page questionnaireand 1,154 or 87% returnedusable questionnaires.
Of the respondents, 97% indicated owning auto insurance. For this study,
only married respondents (95% of the sample) were included in the analysis
for obvious reasons. Recipients of the questionnaire were selected from
consumer panels maintained by National Family Opinion, Inc. (NFO).
   NFO is a research firm which recruits and maintains about 180,000 families
for consumer research purposes. Families are maintained in panels of 1,000,
with each panel balanced to match national family distribution in total and
within each of the nine U.S. Census Bureau geographic divisions according to
population density, age of wife, annual family income, and family size.
Quotas used for these demographic controls are developed from the Census
Bureau and projected to reflect the population as of 1977. NFO does not
include unmarried males in its sample. Unmarried females are possible, but
they are divorced or widowed. Therefore, obtaining a sample of 95% married
couples living together was possible. NFO families have consented to partici-
pate in research activities, such as returning mail questionnaires without pay.
Nonmonetary incentives are provided, however, for participation in indi-
vidual mail surveys.
   Topics on the questionnaire included general family events such as car
purchasing and residential changes as well as insurance related interests, and
insurance conversations in addition to questions regarding family decision-
making influence. The questionnaires were targeted at the husband or male
head of the household with 73% of the respondents being the husband and
27% the wife.
   Much research has explored decision making responsibility as the family
progressed through the stages of the purchase process. Davis and Rigaux [6]
and Granbois [9], for instance, investigated responsibilities during problem
recognition, determination of alternatives via search, and selection among
recognized alternatives. Little research, however, has attempted to explore
the continuation of purchase responsibility to the postpurchase stage, which
may be manifested for auto insurance in the decision to pay the premium. The
person or family members that come in contact with the premium notice first,
may stimulate a reevaluation of the policy and its coverage. Thus, the
person(s) that pay(s) the premium may play an important role in determining
alternatives to renewing the existing policy. Even if the person(s) that pay(s)
the premium is only an initiator or influencer and not the final decider, it
seems that the person(s) that pay the premium probably play(s) an active
rather than a passive role in post purchase evaluative behavior. Kotler [ 12, p.
237] notes that participants can play up to five different roles in the buying
                    Purchasing and Renewing Auto Insurance                   485

    1. Initiator. The initiator is the person who first suggests or thinks of the
       idea of buying the particular product or service.
   2. Influencer. The influencer is a person(s) whose views or advice carries
       some weight in making the final decision.
   3. Decider. The decider is a person or person(s) who ultimately determines
       any part of or the entire buying decision: whether to buy, what to buy,
       how to buy, when to buy, or where to buy.
   4. Buyer. The buyer is the person who makes the actual purchase.
   5. User. The user is the person(s) who consumes or uses the product or
   In considering family member involvement, the decision to continue pay-
ing the insurance premium is a surrogate for the renewal decision, which is the
basis for continued or repeat purchasing of the auto insurance policy from the
current insurer. Should the family decide to reevaluate its current insurance
this person(s) may initiate the behavior, especially if the reevaluation is
premium based. For example, the person or persons that pay the premium are
the first to be aware of premium increases and therefore may take action to
initiate a change in companies or they may not renew the policy if there is not
enough money to pay the premium. Note that the decision to pay could be
joint if both the husband and wife are involved in this decision. For example,
they may share responsibility for paying the bills and also make payment
decisions together. Based upon the results of studies discussed earlier, and in
particular those reported by Davis and Rigaux [6] the following hypothesis is
   Hypothesis 1: The husband is most likely to be the family member primar-
                   ily responsible for deciding to pay the auto insurance pre-
                   mium and for choosing the company from which to pur-
                   chase auto insurance.
   Insurance, compared to frequently purchased nondurable consumer goods,
is a complex product and requires considerable time and effort on the part of
the consumer to properly understand in order to evaluate competitive offer-
ings. The consumer's desire to be able to understand the provisions of the
insurance policy perhaps underlies recent efforts by many states such as
Wisconsin and Illinois to implement or consider implementing a "readable"
auto insurance policy. It is thus conceivable, that faced with a complex
decision situation requiring technical expertise that the family would try to
consolidate the decision making role relative to the person responsible for
considering premium issues and actually selecting an insurance company. As
a result, the following is hypothesized:
   Hypothesis 2: There will be a high level of intrafamily consistency be-
                    tween the member responsible for paying and reviewing
                    premiums and the responsibility for company selection.
   Hempel [11] found that the wife's education, occupational prestige, and
employment status were all inversely related to husband dominance of hous-
ing decisions. Davis [5] also refers to the comparative level of resources
possessed by each spouse and its effect on decision making responsibility. For
486                    The Journal of Risk and Insurance

 example, if the wife controls resources such as a college education or high
 occupational status, the husband's right to govern is likely to be attenuated.
 Based on these findings, wives that are employed and have higher incomes
may be more responsible for auto insurance decisions.
   Hypothesis 3: The greater the wife's contribution to total family income
                   the more likely she will have responsibility for premium
                   payment and company selection.
   In insurance, important communication patterns arise when a consumer
consults an agent regarding coverage or premium related questions. These
insurance conversations relate to actual discussions with representatives of
the insurance company concerning the policy, including payment, or some
aspect of the insurance buyers' needs. In prior research on spousal decision
making, both Mukherjee [14] and Downs [7] found that communication
patterns were important considerations in family planning decision making.
Thus, it would seem logical to postulate that conversations (interviews) with
auto insurance sales representatives will occur with the marital member(s)
that has responsibility for reviewing and paying premiums. One would also
expect that the person that would make the decision on the company from
which to purchase auto insurance would also be more involved in conversa-
tions regarding the purchase of additional policies, since both involve a search
for information leading to a purchase. This area of investigation is important
since it establishes a behavioral consistency with the two facets of decision
making, thereby strengthening the validity of the results associated with the
previous hypotheses.
   Hypothesis 4: The person responsible for deciding to pay the auto insur-
                   ance premium will most often be involved in conversations
                   with auto insurance company personnel about premiums.
   Hypothesis 5: The person most responsible for deciding which company to
                   purchase auto insurance from will also be more involved in
                   conversations with insurance company representatives
                   where the subject is new policy information.

Familv MenmberResponsibility
   Hypothesis I was supported, the husband was most likely to be the family
member primarily responsible for deciding to pay the auto insurance premium
and for choosing the company from which to purchase auto insurance. As
shown in Table 1, the husband had primary responsibility for selecting the
company in 53% of the families and for deciding to pay the premium in 42%
of the families. The wife had relatively little independent responsibility,
possessing responsibility for selecting the company for only 8% of the
families. About one of five wives were responsible for deciding to pay the
insurance premium, however, about one-third of the respondents indicated
the husband and wife held joint responsibility when making the two insurance
                              Purchasing atid Renewing Auto Insurance                                     487

                                                  Table    1

                    Premium Payment       and Company Selection            Responsibility

           Family      Member                                      Premium                  Selecting
       Primarily       Responsible                                 Payment                   Company
                                                                   (n=1085)                 (n=1074)

                    Husband                                           42%                        53%

                    Wife                                              23                          8

                    Both                                              35                         39

                                                                     100%                       100%

   Hypothesis 2 is supported by the data presented in Table 2. Generally, if a
family member (or both) was responsible for company selection, that family
member was also responsible for premium payment and vice versa. The
greatest consistency existed for wives, 92% of the wives that were responsible
for selecting the company were also responsible for premium payment, while
for husbands the comparable figues was 77%. The contingency coefficient
[Siegel, 19, p. 196] between premium payment and company selection
responsibility was .45 significant at p < .001. The upper limit for the
contingency coefficient is dependent upon the number of categories in each
variable. In this instance, the maximum contingency coefficient would be

                                                   Table       2

                                     Premium Payment Responsibility
                           as Related    to Company Selection   Responsibility

                                                           Responsibility      f or
     Responsibility       for                              Selection      Company
     Reviewing      Premiums

                                                Wife                          Husband                   Both

             Wife                                 92%a                           8%                      20%

            Husband                                2                            77                        7

             Both                                  6                            14                       73

  aStatistically            significant    x   at p < .001.
488                       The Jolurnal of Risk and Insurance

Financia Contribiutioni
   Wives that possessed company selection responsibility, made on the aver-
age a greater financial contribution to the family's income. This finding
partially supports Hypothesis 3. In families where wives were considered
responsible for company selection, they contributed about 42 percent of the
family's annual income, while in families where husbands held this responsi-
bility, wives contributed 32 percent of the annual income (F=4.26, signifi-
cant at p < .05). When "both'" family members were considered responsible
for company selection, wives contributed 34 percent of the family's annual
income. (These three categories add to 100% of all families). A slightly larger
proportion of wives (28%) were employed full time in families where they had
company selection responsibility compared to families in which the husband
held this responsibility in which 23% were employed full time, although the
difference is not statistically significant.
   In families where wives were considered responsible for premium pay-
ment, they contributed 37 percent of the family's annual income while in
families where husbands held this responsibility, wives contributed 33 per-
cent of the families annual income. In addition, in families where both
husband and wife held responsibility for premium payment, wives contrib-
uted 33 percent of the families annual income. (These three categories again
add to 100%). This difference was not statistically significant therefore,
hypothesis three is only partially supported. That is, the greater the wife's
contribution to total family income the more likely she will have responsibil-
ity for company selection but not premium payment.
Is urance( Cot wersations With Company Representatives

   To test Hypotheses 4 and 5, respondents were questioned about the types of
insurance conversations they had with insurance company representatives
(agent, claims adjuster, etc.) during 1976.2 The family member primarily
responsible for deciding pay the premium was generally the person involved
in conversations where premium payments were reported as the subject of the
conversation. This finding supports Hypothesis 4 (contingency coefficient =
.52, significant at p < .001). In families where "both" members had
indicated they had premium responsibility, the husband and wife were equally
involved (41 % versus 43 %, respectively - Table 3). However, wives that
had premium responsibility were not more involved in conversations regard-
ing premium payments than they were in conversations regarding all the
insurance subjects (also true for husbands).
    Approximately40% of the respondentsindicatedthey had not hada conversation    with their
insuranceagent during 1976. This resultedin the reductionin the numberof familiesthatwere
analyzed in Tables 3 and 4. Analysis of the demographiccharacteristics policyholdersnot
having conversationsshowed that this group was primarilycomposed of older, unemployed
(mostly retired), low income families with a relatively small insurableinterest. One would
expect that families of this naturewould exhibit much more stable purchasingbehaviorthan
their younger counterparts, and thus would be less involved in reviewing and changing
insurance companies.
                        Purchasing aCndRenewing Auto Insurance                                                      489

                                                     Table   3

                               Premium Payment           Responsibility

                      and Conversations         Regarding             Premium Payments

  Person Involved                         Person Responsible                  for
  in Conversation                       Reviewing and Paying                  Premiums
  Where Subject
  Was Premium                          Wife                            Husband                       Both
                             (n = 27)      (n=138)               (n=57)        (n=264)      (n=51)          (n=236)

        Wife                   78%            (65 %)b                  7%       (12%)         43%            (37%)

        Husband                11             (18 )                   86        (80 )         41             (41

        Both                  11              (17)                     7        (8)           16             (22)

                             100%          (100%)                 100%          (100%)       100%           (100%)

    Percentages    in parentheses         ( ) pertain            to    the distribution    of the person
    involved    in the most recent        conversation                across  all conversation   subjects.

    A statistically      significant      X     at p < .0001,               contingency   coefficient         = .52.

   As noted previously, it might be expected that the person responsiblefor
selecting the insurancecompany might also be more involved in conversa-
tions where the subject was new policy information since both involve
gatheringnew purchasinginformation.As shown in Table 4, Hypothesis5 is
supportedsince the person that possessed company selection responsibility
was halso the person most involved in the conversationsabout new policy
information(contingencycoefficient = .53, significantat p < .0001). How-
ever, their involvement in new policy conversations did not exceed their
involvement in conversationsabout the other insurancesubjects. For exam-
ple, when the wife was responsiblefor company selection, she was involved
in 88% of the conversations on new policy information,but she was also
involved in 82% of the conversations across all subjects which was not a
statisticallysignificant difference at the .05 level of significance. The same
relationship occurred for husband involvement in new policy information

  The data reported in this study generally support the five hypotheses
associated with husband-wifedecision making in purchasingauto insurance.
Hypothesis 3 is only partiallysupported.The findings arepartiallyconsistent
490                              The Journal of Risk and Insurance

                                                       Table    4

                                Company Selection              Responsibility

                      and Conversations        Regarding        New Policy        Information

  Person Involved                               Person     Responsible          For
  in Conversation                             Selecting     Insurance          Company
  Where     Subject
  Was New Policy                       Wife                                Husband                       Both
                               (n=24)         (n=73)                (n=92)       (n=333)        (n=71)          (n=230)

        Wife                     88%a         (82%)b                   9%         (15%)           44%            (42%)

        Husband                    0          ( 6 )                   74          (75 )           34             (35)

        Both                     12           (12 )                   10          (10 )           22             (23)

                                100%          (100%)                 100%         (100%)        100%             (100%)

   aPercentages    in parentheses             ( ) pertain           to the distribution   of the person
    involved    in the most recent             conversation           across all conversation   subjects.

      A statistically       significant        X   at p    <    .0001,       contingency   coefficient          = .52.

with the husband-wife decision making research reported by Davis and
Rigaux [6] and Hempel [ 1I1.
  Husband dominance characterizedthe family's premium payment and
company selection auto insurance decisions. Husbandswere primarilyre-
sponsibile for deciding to pay the premiumin 42 percentof the families and
for company selection in 53 percent of the families. Results, however, also
point out thatthese insurancedecisions are not made in isolationfromspousal
influences. Although wives seldom possessed primarydecision making au-
thority, slightly over half of the auto insurancedecisions (premiumpayment
and company selection) involved wives. While the husbandmay ultimately
determinewhetherto buy, what to buy and where to buy, the wife's views or
advice carries some weight in making the final decision in over half the
respondingfamilies. In addition,the initiatoror influencerroles in the buying
process, which are evidenced by involvement in the renewal process and in
informationgatheringand search for alternativecompaniesor policies, may
be just as importantto understanding    family memberpurchasingbehavioras
knowledge    of who occupies the decider role.
  There appearsto be a greatdeal of consistency between husband-wifeauto
insurancedecision dominance (or joint decisions) of premiumpaymentand
company selection decisions. This is perhapscontraryto the behaviorhouse-
holds exhibit for other consumer productsand services. For example, Davis
                   Purchasing and Renewing Auto Insurance                  491

 [4] found that when purchasingan automobile, certaindecisions (when and
where to buy and how much to spend) were husbanddominatedwhile other
 automobilepurchasedecisions (model and color) were made on a joint basis.
Wives' contribution to annual family income was found to be inversely
related to husband dominance of these decisions. It would appearthat as
wives bring more resourcesinto the family they are more likely to requirein
return,increasedinfluencein the family's affairs,particularly a fiscal role.
   The implicationof these findings should be significantto companiesthat
desire to understand auto insurancebuying process. While most advertis-
ing and much personal selling in the auto insuranceindustryis aimed at the
husband, these findings suggest that wife dominantor joint decision making
could be a considerationin the marketingstrategy. There may be a market
opportunity the firm thatdevelops a promotional                 to
                                                        program reachthe wife
that is an influenceror initiatorin the buying process. We suggest, however,
thatan insurancecompanyshould conduct its own marketingresearchbefore
launchingsuch a promotionalprogram.These findings shouldbe viewed with
a reminder that 73 % of the respondents were husbands. Therefore, it is
possible that husband dominance could have been overstated ratherthan
understated.However, in a subsample of 138 of these respondentfamilies,
65% of the husbands and wives independently agreed on family member
responsibility for company selection and 80% independentlyagreed on the
family member(s) possessing premium payment responsibility. Also, as
pointed out by Davis [5, p. 249], "if the purposeof a study (as it was here)is
limited to describing the relative influence of husbandand wife in various
decisions, it is sufficient to question only one spouse.''
   The findings of this study should also be of interestto academicresearchers
who are investigating husband-wifedecision making for selected products.
Auto insurance is one of the few products where a decision to purchaseis
desirable due to legal considerations. Therefore, conclusions about auto
insurancedecisions might be generalizedto most husband-wifehouseholds.
Based on this unique product and national sample of decision makers, the
hypothesisthatthe wife plays an important    role in financialdecisionscouldbe
generated. Researchconducted by Ferberand Lee [8] has shown that wives
possess considerable influence in family financial matters, acting as the
family financial officer (FFO) in over one-thirdof the couples interviewed.
   It is suggested that future research should attemptto discover the impor-
tance of auto insurancedecisions as they relate to total family resources. As
competition increases for allocation of the family's financial resources, the
importanceof these decisions may also increase, especially if auto insurance
premiumsare considered by the family in conjunctionwith the total cost of
their "personal insurancepackage." Also, intergenerational        auto insurance
ownership patternsas they may relate to husband-wifepurchasedecisions
might be researched.One might investigate, for example, the conflictresolu-
tion that may occur in the marital dyad as a result of each spouse having
acquired auto insurance in their respective families. Additionally, further
researchof otherlines, such as homeowners, health, andlife insurance      should
492                    The Journal of Risk and Insurance

be concurrentlyconductedto determineif the family utilizes an "insurance
specialist" for its purchasedecisions.

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