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Social Insurance: Connecting Theory to Data

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  • Raj Chetty
  • Amy Finkelstein

Abstract

We survey the literature on social insurance, focusing on recent work that has connected theory to evidence to make quantitative statements about welfare and optimal policy. Our review contains two parts. We first discuss motives for government intervention in private insurance markets, focusing primarily on selection. We review the original theoretical arguments for government intervention in the presence of adverse selection, and describe how recent work has refined and challenged the conclusions drawn from early theoretical models. We then describe empirical work that tests for selection in insurance markets, documents the welfare costs of this selection, and analyzes the welfare consequences of potential public policy interventions. In the second part of the paper, we review work on optimal social insurance policies. We discuss formulas for the optimal level of insurance benefits in terms of empirically estimable parameters. We then consider the consequences of relaxing the key assumptions underlying these formulas, e.g., by allowing for fiscal externalities or behavioral biases. We also summarize recent work on other dimensions of optimal policy, including mandated savings accounts and the optimal path of benefits. Finally, we discuss the key challenges that remain in understanding the optimal design of social insurance policies.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18433.

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Date of creation: Oct 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18433

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Cited by:
  1. Camille Landais & Pascal Michaillat & Emmanuel Saez, 2013. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance over the Business Cycle," Discussion Papers 1303, Centre for Macroeconomics (CFM).
  2. Böckerman, Petri & Kanninen, Ohto & Suoniemi, Ilpo, 2014. "A Kink that Makes You Sick: The Incentive Effect of Sick Pay on Absence," IZA Discussion Papers 8205, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Moreno-Serra, R & Smith, PC, 2013. "Towards an index of health coverage," Working Papers 10422, Imperial College, London, Imperial College Business School.
  4. Milan Vodopivec, 2013. "Introducing unemployment insurance to developing countries," IZA Journal of Labor Policy, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 1-23, December.
  5. François Gerard & Gustavo Gonzaga, 2013. "Informal Labor and the Cost of Social Programs: Evidence from 15 Years of Unemployment Insurance in Brazil," Textos para discussão 608, Department of Economics PUC-Rio (Brazil).

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