IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/aea/jecper/v20y2006i3p47-70.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Unemployment Insurance: Strengthening the Relationship between Theory and Policy

Author

Listed:
  • Walter Nicholson
  • Karen Needels

Abstract

Ever since the U.S. federal-state system of unemployment insurance was founded in the 1930s, it has provided partial, temporary replacement of wages to eligible workers who lose jobs -- through no fault of their own -- (as determined by state-level regulations). Unemployment insurance is one of the largest social insurance programs in the United States, with benefits paid totaling about $34 billion in 2004. Economic theory can help us understand the challenges this complex program is likely to face over the next few years. We begin by summarizing the salient characteristics of the unemployment insurance program and then examine the theoretical and econometric research. Much of this research revolves around the main goals of the program, which include: 1) sustaining consumption for workers and their families; 2) helping recipients to make efficient job choices during a period of financial stress; and 3) minimizing the adverse incentives that may accompany partial wage replacement. Of course, these goals can come into conflict -- for example, if replacing wages for an unemployed worker also discourages that worker from aggressively searching for or accepting a new job -- and our discussion will focus on these conflicts. In conclusion, we address the key policy issues that the unemployment insurance system is likely to face in upcoming years and ways policymakers may be able to use economic analysis to adjust the program so that it remains effective in addressing the needs of unemployed workers.

Suggested Citation

  • Walter Nicholson & Karen Needels, 2006. "Unemployment Insurance: Strengthening the Relationship between Theory and Policy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(3), pages 47-70, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:20:y:2006:i:3:p:47-70
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.20.3.47
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.20.3.47
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Wang, Cheng & Williamson, Stephen, 1996. "Unemployment insurance with moral hazard in a dynamic economy," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 1-41, June.
    2. Fredriksson, Peter & Holmlund, Bertil, 2001. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance in Search Equilibrium," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(2), pages 370-399, April.
    3. Paul Decker & Christopher J. O'Leary & Stephen A. Woodbury, 2001. "Bonus Impacts on Receipt of Unemployment Insurance," Book chapters authored by Upjohn Institute researchers, in: Philip K. Robins & Robert G. Spiegelman (ed.), Reemployment Bonuses in the Unemployment Insurance System: Evidence from Three Field Experiments, chapter 4, pages 105-150, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    4. Davidson, Carl & Woodbury, Stephen A., 1997. "Optimal unemployment insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(3), pages 359-387, June.
    5. Paul T. Decker & Robert B. Olsen & Lance Freeman & Daniel H. Klepinger, 2000. "Assisting Unemployment Insurance Claimants: The Long-Term Impacts of the Job Search Assistance Demonstration," Mathematica Policy Research Reports a91d342072d34545ba240f269, Mathematica Policy Research.
    6. Katherine Baicker & Marit M. Rehavi, 2004. "Policy Watch: Trade Adjustment Assistance," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(2), pages 239-255, Spring.
    7. Flemming, J. S., 1978. "Aspects of optimal unemployment insurance : Search, leisure, savings and capital market imperfections," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 403-425, December.
    8. Wang, Cheng & Williamson, Stephen D., 2002. "Moral hazard, optimal unemployment insurance, and experience rating," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(7), pages 1337-1371, October.
    9. Hansen, Gary D & Imrohoroglu, Ayse, 1992. "The Role of Unemployment Insurance in an Economy with Liquidity Constraints and Moral Hazard," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(1), pages 118-142, February.
    10. Walter Corson & Karen Needels & Walter Nicholson, 1999. "Emergency Unemployment Compensation: The 1990s Experience," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 493d3f9bc06442df875644c62, Mathematica Policy Research.
    11. Martin Feldstein, 2005. "Rethinking Social Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 1-24, March.
    12. Moffitt, Robert, 1985. "Unemployment insurance and the distribution of unemployment spells," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 85-101, April.
    13. Christopher J. O’Leary & Paul T. Decke & Stephen A. Wandner, 2005. "Cost-Effectiveness of Targeted Reemployment Bonuses," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(1).
    14. Card, David & Levine, Phillip B., 1994. "Unemployment insurance taxes and the cyclical and seasonal properties of unemployment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 1-29, January.
    15. Katharine G. Abraham & Susan N. Houseman, 1994. "Does Employment Protection Inhibit Labor Market Flexibility? Lessons from Germany, France, and Belgium," NBER Chapters, in: Social Protection versus Economic Flexibility: Is There a Trade-Off?, pages 59-94, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Katz, Lawrence F. & Meyer, Bruce D., 1990. "The impact of the potential duration of unemployment benefits on the duration of unemployment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 45-72, February.
    17. Stephen A. Woodbury, 2009. "Unemployment," Chapters, in: Kenneth G. Dau-Schmidt & Seth D. Harris & Orly Lobel (ed.), Labor and Employment Law and Economics, chapter 17, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    18. Moffitt, Robert & Nicholson, Walter, 1982. "The Effect of Unemployment Insurance on Unemployment: The Case of Federal Supplemental Benefits," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 64(1), pages 1-11, February.
    19. Jonathan Gruber, 1999. "The Wealth of the Unemployed: Adequacy and Implications for Unemployment Insurance," NBER Working Papers 7348, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Baily, Martin Neil, 1978. "Some aspects of optimal unemployment insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 379-402, December.
    21. Olivier Blanchard & Jean Tirole, 2004. "The Optimal Design of Unemployment Insurance and Employment Protection. A First Pass," NBER Working Papers 10443, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    22. Ehrenberg, Ronald G & Oaxaca, Ronald L, 1976. "Unemployment Insurance, Duration of Unemployment, and Subsequent Wage Gain," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(5), pages 754-766, December.
    23. Hopenhayn, Hugo A & Nicolini, Juan Pablo, 1997. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(2), pages 412-438, April.
    24. Daniel S. Hamermesh & Daniel T. Slesnick, 1995. "Unemployment Insurance and Household Welfare: Microeconomic Evidence 1980-93," NBER Working Papers 5315, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    25. Feldstein, Martin S, 1978. "The Effect of Unemployment Insurance on Temporary Layoff Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(5), pages 834-846, December.
    26. Edi Karni, 1999. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance: A Survey," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 66(2), pages 442-465, October.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Tamayo, Jorge Andrés & Núñez, Jairo & Medina, Carlos, 2013. "The Unemployment Subsidy Program in Colombia: An Assessment," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 4622, Inter-American Development Bank.
    2. Fleurbaey, Marc & Zuber, Stéphane, 2017. "Fair management of social risk," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 169(C), pages 666-706.
    3. Caroline Flammer & Jiao Luo, 2017. "Corporate social responsibility as an employee governance tool: Evidence from a quasi-experiment," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(2), pages 163-183, February.
    4. Bowen, T. Renee & Chen, Ying & Eraslan, Hülya & Zápal, Jan, 2017. "Efficiency of flexible budgetary institutions," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 167(C), pages 148-176.
    5. Hassan Mohammadi & Daniel Rich, 2013. "Dynamics of Unemployment Insurance Claims: An Application of ARIMA-GARCH Models," Atlantic Economic Journal, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 41(4), pages 413-425, December.
    6. Craig, Steven G. & Hemissi, Wided & Mukherjee, Satadru & Sørensen, Bent E., 2016. "How do politicians save? Buffer-stock management of unemployment insurance finance," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 18-29.
    7. Jennifer Brown & David A. Matsa, 2016. "Boarding a Sinking Ship? An Investigation of Job Applications to Distressed Firms," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 71(2), pages 507-550, April.
    8. David R. Howell & Miriam Rehm, 2009. "Unemployment compensation and high European unemployment: a reassessment with new benefit indicators," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(1), pages 60-93, Spring.
    9. Christopher J. O’Leary & Burt S. Barnow & Karolien Lenaerts, 2020. "Lessons from the American federal‐state unemployment insurance system for a European unemployment benefits system," International Social Security Review, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 73(1), pages 3-34, January.
    10. Adrienne T. Edisis, 2016. "The Effect of Unemployment Insurance on Temporary Help Services Employment," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 37(4), pages 484-503, December.
    11. Jeremy Schwartz, 2012. "Unemployment Insurance and the Business Cycle: What Adjustments are Needed?," EcoMod2012 3674, EcoMod.
    12. Nada Wasi & Chinnawat Devahastin Na Ayudhya & Pucktada Treeratpituk & Chommanart Nittayo, 2021. "Understanding a Less Developed Labor Market through the Lens of Social Security Data," PIER Discussion Papers 147, Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research, revised Jan 2021.
    13. Fadiran, Gideon & Fadiran, David & Ibn-Mohammed, Taofeeq, 2017. "Macroeconomic Policy effects on development transition – Views from Agent based model," MPRA Paper 103197, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Dec 2018.
    14. Walter Nicholson & Karen Needels & Heinrich Hock, 2014. "Unemployment Compensation During the Great Recession: Theory and Evidence," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 67(1), pages 187-218, March.
    15. Leslie Hodges, 2018. "Who is Covered by Unemployment Insurance?," Research in Applied Economics, Macrothink Institute, vol. 10(3), pages 24-51, September.
    16. Fleurbaey, Marc & Zuber, Stéphane, 2017. "Fair management of social risk," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 169(C), pages 666-706.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Walter Nicholson & Karen Needels, "undated". "The EUC08 Program in Theoretical and Historical Perspective," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 9046cb11c3aa44c8a036a6e38, Mathematica Policy Research.
    2. Peter Fredriksson & Bertil Holmlund, 2006. "Improving Incentives in Unemployment Insurance: A Review of Recent Research," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 20(3), pages 357-386, July.
    3. Walter Nicholson & Karen Needels, "undated". "Optimal Extended Unemployment Benefits," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 3362c47819f246f7a3b20dd00, Mathematica Policy Research.
    4. Vodopivec, Milan & Raju, Dhushyanth, 2002. "Income support systems for the unemployed : issues and options," Social Protection Discussion Papers and Notes 25529, The World Bank.
    5. Reichling, Felix, 2006. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance in Labor Market Equilibrium when Workers can Self-Insure," MPRA Paper 5362, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 16 Oct 2007.
    6. Chetty, Raj, 2006. "A general formula for the optimal level of social insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(10-11), pages 1879-1901, November.
    7. Milan Vodopivec, 2004. "Income Support for the Unemployed : Issues and Options," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 14922, July.
    8. Nicola Pavoni & G. L. Violante, 2007. "Optimal Welfare-to-Work Programs," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(1), pages 283-318.
    9. Tomer Blumkin & Leif Danziger & Eran Yashiv, 2017. "Optimal unemployment benefit policy and the firm productivity distribution," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 24(1), pages 36-59, February.
    10. Holmlund, Bertil, 1997. "Unemployment Insurance in Theory and Practice," Working Paper Series 1997:25, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    11. Stéphane Pallage & Christian Zimmermann, 1999. "Assurance chômage et sociétés," Cahiers de recherche du Département des sciences économiques, UQAM 9904, Université du Québec à Montréal, Département des sciences économiques.
    12. Simoes, Nadia, 2013. "Subsídio de desemprego: uma revisão da literatura teórica e empírica [Unemployment insurance: a survey]," MPRA Paper 52332, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Carl Davidson & Stephen A. Woodbury, 1997. "The Optimal Dole with Risk Aversion, Job Destruction, and Worker Heterogeneity," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 97-47, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    14. Robert Shimer & Ivan Werning, 2008. "Liquidity and Insurance for the Unemployed," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1922-1942, December.
    15. 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, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(4), pages 1511-1560.
    16. Robert Shimer & Iván Werning, 2007. "Reservation Wages and Unemployment Insurance," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1145-1185.
    17. Fredriksson, Peter & Holmlund, Bertil, 2001. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance in Search Equilibrium," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(2), pages 370-399, April.
    18. Jeremy Schwartz, 2012. "Unemployment Insurance and the Business Cycle: What Adjustments are Needed?," EcoMod2012 3674, EcoMod.
    19. Dan Anderberg, 2003. "Voluntary income sharing and the design of unemployment insurance," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 16(1), pages 71-90, February.
    20. Schwartz, J., 2015. "Optimal unemployment insurance: When search takes effort and money," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 1-17.

    More about this item

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:20:y:2006:i:3:p:47-70. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Michael P. Albert (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.