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Stabilization versus Insurance

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  • James Costain and Michael Reiter

Abstract

Fluctuations of representative agent economies are not very costly. So if business cycles matter, it must be because agents face uninsured idiosyncratic risk which is somehow worsened by aggregate fluctuation. Idiosyncratic risk could be counteracted either through aggregate stabilization or public insurance provision. Our framework allows us to ask which of these mechanisms is optimal. We study a real business cycle model with a job matching function which, under non-distortionary full insurance, would decentralize the optimum. However, we assume public insurance can only be financed by distorting labor taxes, and that there is moral hazard in job search behavior. Without insurance, workers save to smooth their consumption. Our dynamic general equilibrium simulation characterizes the asset distribution in terms of a few moments. We interpolate the value function and check accuracy by new methods. We find that aggregate fluctuations have little average effect on unemployment, but they are costly because recessions greatly increase the probability of remaining unemployed long enough to deplete asset buffer stocks. Both public insurance provision and aggregate stabilization by increasing the procyclicality of tax collection imply nontrivial benefits.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Society for Computational Economics in its series Computing in Economics and Finance 2001 with number 161.

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Date of creation: 01 Apr 2001
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Handle: RePEc:sce:scecf1:161

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Keywords: business cycles; heterogeneous agents; matching;

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References

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  1. Andrew Atkeson & Christopher Phelan, 1994. "Reconsidering the Costs of Business Cycles with Incomplete Markets," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1994, Volume 9, pages 187-218 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Schmitt-Grohe, Stephanie & Uribe, Martin, 2004. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy under imperfect competition," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 183-209, June.
  3. tom krebs, 2004. "welfare cost of business cycles when markets are incomplete," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 283, Econometric Society.
  4. Robert Shimer, 2004. "The Consequences of Rigid Wages in Search Models," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(2-3), pages 469-479, 04/05.
  5. Storesletten, Kjetil & Telmer, Chris I. & Yaron, Amir, 2001. "The welfare cost of business cycles revisited: Finite lives and cyclical variation in idiosyncratic risk," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(7), pages 1311-1339.
  6. James S. Costain & Michael Reiter, 2003. "Business cycles, unemployment insurance and the calibration of matching models," Economics Working Papers 872, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Oct 2006.
  7. Tom Krebs, 2005. "Job Displacement Risk and the Cost of Business Cycles," 2005 Meeting Papers 188, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  8. Robert Shimer, 2005. "The Cyclical Behavior of Equilibrium Unemployment and Vacancies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 25-49, March.
  9. Albert Marcet & Thomas J. Sargent & Juha Seppala, 1996. "Optimal taxation without state-contingent debt," Economics Working Papers 170, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Oct 2001.
  10. Barro, Robert J., 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Scholarly Articles 3451400, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  11. Tom Krebs, 2003. "Growth and Welfare Effects of Business Cycles in Economies with Idiosyncratic Human Capital Risk," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 6(4), pages 846-868, October.
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