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Moral Hazard versus Liquidity and Optimal Unemployment Insurance

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  • Raj Chetty

Abstract

This paper presents new evidence on why unemployment insurance (UI) benefits affect search behavior and develops a simple method of calculating the welfare gains from UI using this evidence. I show that 60 percent of the increase in unemployment durations caused by UI benefits is due to a "liquidity effect" rather than distortions on marginal incentives to search ("moral hazard") by combining two empirical strategies. First, I find that increases in benefits have much larger effects on durations for liquidity-constrained households. Second, lump-sum severance payments increase durations substantially among constrained households. I derive a formula for the optimal benefit level that depends only on the reduced-form liquidity and moral hazard elasticities. The formula implies that the optimal UI benefit level exceeds 50 percent of the wage. The "exact identification" approach to welfare analysis proposed here yields robust optimal policy results because it does not require structural estimation of primitives. (c) 2008 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved..

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 116 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2 (04)
Pages: 173-234

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:116:y:2008:i:2:p:173-234

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  1. Hansen, G.D. & Imrohoroglu, A., 1990. "The Role Of Unemployment Insurance In An Economy With Liquidity Constraints And Moral Hazard," Papers 21, California Los Angeles - Applied Econometrics.
  2. Chetty, Raj, 2008. "Moral Hazard versus Liquidity and Optimal Unemployment Insurance," Scholarly Articles 9751256, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Carroll, Christopher D, 1997. "Buffer-Stock Saving and the Life Cycle/Permanent Income Hypothesis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 1-55, February.
  4. David Card & Raj Chetty & Andrea Weber, 2007. "Cash-On-Hand and Competing Models of Intertemporal Behavior: New Evidence from the Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(4), pages 1511-1560, November.
  5. Gruber, Jonathan, 1997. "The Consumption Smoothing Benefits of Unemployment Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 192-205, March.
  6. Rasmus Lentz & Torben Tranas, 2005. "Job Search and Savings: Wealth Effects and Duration Dependence," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(3), pages 467-490, July.
  7. David S. Johnson & Jonathan A. Parker & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2004. "Household Expenditure and the Income Tax Rebates of 2001," NBER Working Papers 10784, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Hans G. Bloemen & Elena G. F. Stancanelli, 2005. "Financial Wealth, Consumption Smoothing and Income Shocks Arising from Job Loss," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 72(3), pages 431-452, 08.
  9. Richard Blundell & Luigi Pistaferri & Ian Preston, 2008. "Consumption Inequality and Partial Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1887-1921, December.
  10. Feldstein, Martin S, 1978. "The Effect of Unemployment Insurance on Temporary Layoff Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(5), pages 834-46, December.
  11. Yolanda K. Kodrzycki, 1998. "Effects of employer-provided severance benefits on reemployment outcomes," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Nov, pages 41-68.
  12. Hurst, Erik & Stafford, Frank, 2004. "Home Is Where the Equity Is: Mortgage Refinancing and Household Consumption," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 36(6), pages 985-1014, December.
  13. Zeldes, Stephen P, 1989. "Consumption and Liquidity Constraints: An Empirical Investigation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(2), pages 305-46, April.
  14. Anderson, Patricia M & Meyer, Bruce D, 1997. "Unemployment Insurance Takeup Rates and the After-Tax Value of Benefits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(3), pages 913-37, August.
  15. Martin Feldstein & Daniel Altman, 2007. "Unemployment Insurance Savings Accounts," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 21, pages 35-64 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Cullen, Julie Berry & Gruber, Jonathan, 2000. "Does Unemployment Insurance Crowd Out Spousal Labor Supply?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 546-72, July.
  17. Raj Chetty, 2008. "Erratum: Moral Hazard versus Liquidity and Optimal Unemployment Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(6), pages 1197-1197, December.
  18. Moffitt, Robert, 1985. "Unemployment insurance and the distribution of unemployment spells," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 85-101, April.
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  1. New insights on optimal unemployment insurance
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2008-12-23 12:36:00

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  1. > Labor Economics > Unemployment Insurance > Optimal Unemployment Insurance
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