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Search and Work in Optimal Welfare Programs


  • Pavoni, Nicola
  • Setty, Ofer
  • Violante, Giovanni L


Some existing welfare programs (“work-first”) require participants to work in exchange for benefits. Others (“job search-first”) emphasize private job-search and provide assistance in finding and retaining a durable employment. This paper studies the optimal design of welfare programs when (i) the principal/government is unable to observe the agent’s effort, but can assist the agent’s job search and can mandate the agent to work, and (ii) agents’ skills depreciate during unemployment. In the optimal welfare program, assisted search is implemented between an initial spell of private search (unemployment insurance) and a final spell of pure income support where search effort is not elicited. To be effective, job-search assistance requires large reemployment subsidies. The optimal program features compulsory work activities for low levels of program’s generosity (i.e., its promised utility or available budget). The threat of mandatory work acts like a punishment that facilitates the provision of search incentives without compromising consumption smoothing too much.

Suggested Citation

  • Pavoni, Nicola & Setty, Ofer & Violante, Giovanni L, 2013. "Search and Work in Optimal Welfare Programs," CEPR Discussion Papers 9389, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9389

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Dominik Sachs & Sebastian Findeisen, 2016. "Optimal Financial Aid Policies for Students," 2016 Meeting Papers 1421, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Claudio Michelacci & Hernán Ruffo, 2015. "Optimal Life Cycle Unemployment Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(2), pages 816-859, February.
    3. Sebastian Koehne & Moritz Kuhn, 2015. "Should unemployment insurance be asset-tested?," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 18(3), pages 575-592, July.
    4. Ortego-Marti, Victor, 2017. "The Cyclical Behavior Of Unemployment And Vacancies With Loss Of Skills During Unemployment," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 21(06), pages 1277-1304, September.
    5. Arni, Patrick & Berg, Gerard van den & Lalive, Rafael, 2015. "Treatment Versus Regime Effects of Carrots and Sticks," CEPR Discussion Papers 10913, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. 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.
    7. Findeisen, Sebastian & Sachs, Dominik, 2015. "Designing efficient college and tax policies," Working Papers 15-09, University of Mannheim, Department of Economics.
    8. Johannes F. Schmieder & Till von Wachter & Stefan Bender, 2013. "The Causal Effect of Unemployment Duration on Wages: Evidence from Unemployment Insurance Extensions," NBER Working Papers 19772, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item


    Moral Hazard; Recursive Contracts; Search; Welfare Program; Work;

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search
    • J65 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment Insurance; Severance Pay; Plant Closings

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