Rather Doomed than Uncertain: Risk Attitudes and Sexual Behavior Under Asymptomatic Infection
24 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2020
Date Written: March 22, 2016
We analyze the relation between an individual's risk attitude and his willingness to engage in unprotected sexual behavior, when faced with an asymptomatic infectious disease. In such a situation, the individual must not only assess the likely health status of his partner, but must also form beliefs about his own health status, as these two jointly determine the probability of infection transmission. We show that in a high risk environment, increasing an individual's risk aversion counter-intuitively increases his propensity to engage in unprotected sex. The reason for this surprising result is that as risk aversion increases, the certain payoff from getting infected through unprotected sex becomes relatively more attractive than the uncertain payoffs from protected behavior. We also extend the model to analyze the effects of asymmetric information in a population-wide setting.
Keywords: Economic epidemiology, risk aversion, sexual behavior, rational fatal- ism, HIV/AIDS
JEL Classification: I12, D81
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation