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Unemployed But Optimistic: Optimal Insurance Design With Biased Beliefs

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  • Johannes Spinnewijn

Abstract

This paper analyzes how biased beliefs about employment prospects affect the optimal design of unemployment insurance. Empirically, I find that the unemployed greatly overestimate how quickly they will find work. As a consequence, they would search too little for work, save too little for unemployment and deplete their savings too rapidly when unemployed. I analyze the use of the “sufficient-statistics” formula to characterize the optimal unemployment policy when beliefs are biased and revisit the desirability of providing liquidity to the unemployed. I also find that the optimal unemployment policy may involve increasing benefits during the unemployment spell.

Suggested Citation

  • Johannes Spinnewijn, 2015. "Unemployed But Optimistic: Optimal Insurance Design With Biased Beliefs," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 13(1), pages 130-167, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jeurec:v:13:y:2015:i:1:p:130-167
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/jeea.12099
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    Cited by:

    1. Topi Miettinen & Michael Kosfeld & Ernst Fehr & Jörgen W. Weibull, 2017. "Revealed Preferences in a Sequential Prisoners' Dilemma: A Horse-Race Between Five Utility Functions," CESifo Working Paper Series 6358, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Schumacher, Heiner & Thysen, Heidi, 2017. "Equilibrium Contracts and Boundedly Rational Expectations," Annual Conference 2017 (Vienna): Alternative Structures for Money and Banking 168085, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    3. Koenig, Felix & Manning, Alan & Petrongolo, Barbara, 2014. "Reservation wages and the wage flexibility puzzle," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 60613, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Fischer, Mira & Sliwka, Dirk, 2018. "Confidence in Knowledge or Confidence in the Ability to Learn: An Experiment on the Causal Effects of Beliefs on Motivation," IZA Discussion Papers 11327, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Cremer, Helmuth & Roeder, Kerstin, 2017. "Social insurance with competitive insurance markets and risk misperception," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 138-147.
    6. Eva M. Berger & Luke Haywood, 2016. "Locus of Control and Mothers’ Return to Employment," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 10(4), pages 442-481.
    7. Mesén Vargas, Juliana & Van der Linden, Bruno, 2017. "Is There Always a Trade-off between Insurance and Incentives? The Case of Unemployment with Subsistence Constraints," IZA Discussion Papers 11034, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Raj Chetty, 2015. "Behavioral Economics and Public Policy: A Pragmatic Perspective," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 1-33, May.
    9. repec:eee:labeco:v:46:y:2017:i:c:p:14-25 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Girum Abebe & Stefano Caria & Marcel Fafchamps & Paolo Falco & Simon Franklin & Simon Quinn & Forhad Shilpi, 2017. "Matching Firms and Workers in a Field Experiment in Ethiopia," SERC Discussion Papers 0225, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE.
    11. Caliendo, Marco & Mahlstedt, Robert & Mitnik, Oscar A., 2017. "Unobservable, but unimportant? The relevance of usually unobserved variables for the evaluation of labor market policies," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 14-25.
    12. Gerritsen, Aart, 2016. "Optimal taxation when people do not maximize well-being," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 144(C), pages 122-139.
    13. Johannes F. Schmieder & Till von Wachter & Stefan Bender, 2016. "The Effect of Unemployment Benefits and Nonemployment Durations on Wages," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(3), pages 739-777, March.
    14. Bart Cockx & Eva Van Belle, 2016. "Waiting Longer Before Claiming and Activating Youth. No Point?," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2016019, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    15. Dawson, Chris, 2017. "The upside of pessimism − Biased beliefs and the paradox of the contented female worker," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 215-228.
    16. repec:aea:aecrev:v:107:y:2017:i:7:p:1778-1823 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. repec:hrv:faseco:34330194 is not listed on IDEAS

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