Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 128, Issue 3, pp 519–533 | Cite as

How Fair Is Actuarial Fairness?

  • Xavier LandesEmail author


Insurance is pervasive in many social settings. As a cooperative device based on risk pooling, it serves to attenuate the adverse consequences of various risks (health, unemployment, natural catastrophes and so forth) by offering policyholders coverage against the losses implied by adverse events in exchange for the payment of premiums. In the insurance industry, the concept of actuarial fairness serves to establish what could be adequate, fair premiums. Accordingly, premiums paid by policyholders should match as closely as possible their risk exposure (i.e. their expected losses). Such premiums are the product of the probabilities of losses and the expected losses. This article presents a discussion of the fairness of actuarial fairness through three steps: (1) defining the concept based on its formulation within the insurance industry; (2) determining in which sense it may be about fairness; and (3) raising some objections to the actual fairness of actuarial fairness. The necessity of a normative evaluation of actuarial fairness is justified by the influence of the concept on the current reforms of public insurance systems and the fact that it highlights the question of the repartition of the gains and burdens of social cooperation.


Cooperation Expected utility Insurance Fairness Premiums Responsibility 



This research received the support of the Danish Council for Independent Research, project Public Insurance, Equality, and Efficiency (10-080448). This paper benefited from the comments of two anonymous referees of the Journal of Business Ethics, Axel Gosseries, Nils Holtug, Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen, Martin Marchman, Søren Midtgaard, Morten Nielsen as well as comments received at several occasions such as the seminar of the Department of Political Science at Aarhus University, the CESEM seminar, the Workshop on Insurance and Discrimination (University of Copenhagen) and the 7th International Conference on Applied Ethics in Hokkaïdo.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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