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How do transfers and universal basic income impact the labor market and inequality?

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  • Rauh, C.
  • Santos, M. R.

Abstract

This paper studies the impact of existing and universal transfer programs on vacancy creation, wages, and welfare using a search-and-matching model with heterogeneous agents and on-the-job human capital accumulation. We calibrate the general equilibrium model to match key moments concerning unemployment, wage and wealth distributions, as well as the distribution of EITC and transfers. In addition, unemployment insurance benefits are related to pre-unemployment earnings and subject to exhaustion, after which agents can only rely on transfers and savings. First, we show that existing transfers hamper economic activity but provide sizeable welfare gains. Next, we show that a universal basic income of nearly $12,500 to each household per year, which replaces all existing transfer programs and unemployment benefits, can lead to small aggregate welfare gains. These welfare gains mostly accrue to less skilled individuals despite their sizable fall in wages, and the overall rise in skill premia and wage inequality. Albeit the extra burden of higher taxes to finance UBI, we show that the increased action in hiring is a key channel though which outcomes for low education groups improve with the reform. However, if we keep the UI benefits in place, the positive effects on job creation vanish and UBI does not improve upon the current system.

Suggested Citation

  • Rauh, C. & Santos, M. R., 2022. "How do transfers and universal basic income impact the labor market and inequality?," Janeway Institute Working Papers 2205, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  • Handle: RePEc:cam:camjip:2205
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    Cited by:

    1. Axelle Ferriere & Philipp Grübener & Gaston Navarro & Oliko Vardishvili, 2023. "On the Optimal Design of Transfers and Income Tax Progressivity," Journal of Political Economy Macroeconomics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(2), pages 276-333.
    2. Nezih Guner & Remzi Kaygusuz & Gustavo Ventura, 2023. "Rethinking the Welfare State," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 91(6), pages 2261-2294, November.
    3. Axelle Ferriere & Philipp Grubener & Gaston Navarro & Oliko Vardishvili, 2021. "Larger transfers financed with more progressive taxes? On the optimal design of taxes and transfers," PSE Working Papers halshs-03466762, HAL.
    4. Conesa, Juan Carlos & Li, Bo & Li, Qian, 2023. "A quantitative evaluation of universal basic income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 223(C).
    5. Guimarães, Luis & Lourenço, Diogo, 2024. "The Imperfections of Conditional Programs and the Case for Universal Basic Income," MPRA Paper 119964, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Transfer programs; EITC; Means-tested transfers; Welfare programs; Labor supply; On-the-job human capital accumulation; Life cycle; Inequality; Universal basic income; UBI; Unemployment; General equilibrium;
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