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Can Supply-Side policies Reduce unemployment? Lessons from North America

  • Gary Burtless

    ()

    (The Brookings Institution)

Recent US experience offers lessons about supply-side policies to sustain low unemployment. These include programs to change the skills of the workforce and improve the microeconomic incentives facing workers and employers. Two supply-side policies were greatly expanded after the mid-1980s. Congress established generous earnings supplements, payable to low-income parents, to encourage unskilled workers to find and keep jobs. Social assistance was reformed to limit the duration of benefits and to link payments to recipients’ participation in work preparation and paid employment. Experimental and nonexperimental studies suggest these measures boosted employment among the economically disadvantaged. Compared with other OECD countries, the US maintained strong incentives for employers to create jobs for the hard-to-employ. Payroll tax and regulatory burdens on employers were kept low, and the legal minimum wage fell significantly after 1979. The US experience shows supply-side policies can boost the employment rates of the hard-to-employ and hold down structural unemployment.

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Article provided by Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Curtin Business School in its journal Australian Journal of Labour Economics.

Volume (Year): 5 (2002)
Issue (Month): 2 (June)
Pages: 115-142

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Handle: RePEc:ozl:journl:v:5:y:2002:i:2:p:115-142
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://business.curtin.edu.au/research/publications/journals/ajle/Email:


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  1. Nickell, Stephen, 1998. "Unemployment: Questions and Some Answers," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(448), pages 802-16, May.
  2. Bruce D. Meyer & Dan T. Rosenbaum, 1999. "Making Single Mothers Work: Recent Tax and Welfare Policy and its Effects," JCPR Working Papers 152, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  3. Lawrence Katz & Bruce Meyer, 1988. "The Impact of the Potential Duration of Unemployment Benefits on the Duration of Unemployment," Working Papers 621, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  4. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1991. "The Nonequivalence of High School Equivalents," NBER Working Papers 3804, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Paul T. Decker & Christopher J. O'Leary, 1994. "Evaluating Pooled Evidence from the Reemployment Bonus Experiments," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 94-28, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
  6. Burtless, Gary, 1990. "The Economist's Lament: Public Assistance in America," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 57-78, Winter.
  7. Gary Burtless, 1998. "Relative Unemployment in Canada and the United States: An Assessment," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 24(s1), pages 254-263, February.
  8. Moffitt, Robert, 1985. "Unemployment insurance and the distribution of unemployment spells," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 85-101, April.
  9. W. Craig Riddell & Andrew Sharpe, 1998. "The Canada-US Unemployment Rate Gap: An Introduction and Overview," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 24(s1), pages 1-37, February.
  10. repec:mpr:mprres:1978 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Meyer, Bruce D. & Rosenbaum, Dan T., 2000. "Making Single Mothers Work: Recent Tax and Welfare Policy and its Effects," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(n. 4), pages 1027-62, December.
  12. Gary Burtless, 1985. "Are targeted wage subsidies harmful? Evidence from a wage voucher experiment," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 39(1), pages 105-114, October.
  13. Atkinson, Anthony B & Micklewright, John, 1991. "Unemployment Compensation and Labor Market Transitions: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 29(4), pages 1679-1727, December.
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