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Why Does Unemployment Hurt the Employed?: Evidence from the Life Satisfaction Gap between the Public and Private Sectors

  • Simon Luechinger
  • Stephan Meier
  • Alois Stutzer

High rates of unemployment entail substantial costs to the working population in terms of reduced subjective well-being. This paper studies the importance of individual economic security, in particular, job security, in workers' well-being by exploiting sector-specific institutional differences in the exposure to economic shocks. Public servants have stricter dismissal protection and face a lower risk of their organization's bankruptcy than do private sector employees. The empirical results for individual panel data for Germany and repeated cross-sectional data for the United States and the European Union show that the sensitivity of subjective well-being to fluctuations in unemployment rates is much lower in the public sector than in the private. This suggests that increased economic insecurity constitutes an important welfare loss associated with high general unemployment.

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Paper provided by DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) in its series SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research with number 106.

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Length: 37 p.
Date of creation: 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp106
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  1. Luechinger, Simon & Stutzer, Alois & Winkelmann, Rainer, 2006. "The Happiness Gains from Sorting and Matching in the Labor Market," IZA Discussion Papers 2019, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Armin Falk & Andreas Kuhn & Josef Zweimüller, 2009. "Unemployment and Right-wing Extremist Crime," NRN working papers 2009-16, The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  3. Dohmen, Thomas & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David B. & Sunde, Uwe & Schupp, Jürgen & Wagner, Gert G., 2005. "Individual Risk Attitudes: New Evidence from a Large, Representative, Experimentally-Validated Survey," IZA Discussion Papers 1730, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Clark, Andrew E. & Postel-Vinay, Fabien, 2005. "Job Security and Job Protection," IZA Discussion Papers 1489, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  6. Raphael, Steven & WINTER-EBMER, RUDOLF, 1998. "Identifying the Effect of Unemployment on Crime," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt5hb4h56g, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  7. Ebbinghaus, Bernhard & Eichhorst, Werner, 2006. "Employment Regulation and Labor Market Policy in Germany, 1991-2005," IZA Discussion Papers 2505, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Alois Stutzer & Rafael Lalive, . "The Role of Social Work Norms in Job Searching and Subjective Well-Being," IEW - Working Papers 051, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  9. Robert B. Barsky & F. Thomas Juster & Miles S. Kimball & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1997. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 537-579.
  10. Anna Öster & Jonas Agell, 2007. "Crime and Unemployment in Turbulent Times," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 5(4), pages 752-775, 06.
  11. Alois Stutzer, 2008. "Bureaucratic Rents and Life Satisfaction," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(2), pages 476-488, October.
  12. Rafael Di Tella & Robert MacCulloch, 2005. "Partisan Social Happiness," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(2), pages 367-393.
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  14. Alois Stutzer & Bruno S. Frey, 2003. "Reported Subjective Well-Being: A Challenge for Economic Theory and Economic Policy," CREMA Working Paper Series 2003-07, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  15. Robert B. Barsky & Miles S. Kimball & F. Thomas Juster & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1995. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Working Papers 5213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Andrew Clark, 2001. "Unemployment As A Social Norm: Psychological Evidence from Panel Data," DELTA Working Papers 2001-17, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  17. Alan B. Krueger, 1988. "The Determinants of Queues for Federal Jobs," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 41(4), pages 567-581, July.
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  19. Stewart, Mark B & Swaffield, Joanna K, 1997. "Constraints on the Desired Hours of Work of British Men," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(441), pages 520-35, March.
  20. Paul Frijters & John P. Haisken-DeNew & Michael A. Shields, 2004. "Investigating the Patterns and Determinants of Life Satisfaction in Germany Following Reunification," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(3).
  21. Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert J. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 615, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  22. repec:pri:indrel:343 is not listed on IDEAS
  23. Winkelmann, Liliana & Winkelmann, Rainer, 1998. "Why Are the Unemployed So Unhappy? Evidence from Panel Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(257), pages 1-15, February.
  24. Sanz-de-Galdeano, Anna & Turunen, Jarkko, 2006. "The euro area wage curve," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 92(1), pages 93-98, July.
  25. David Card, 1995. "The Wage Curve: A Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(2), pages 285-299, June.
  26. Nicola Fuchs-Schundeln & Matthias Schundeln, 2005. "Precautionary Savings and Self-Selection - Evidence from the German Reunification "Experiment"," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2069, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  27. Richard B. Freeman, 1985. "How do Public Sector Wages and Employment Respond to Economic Conditions," NBER Working Papers 1653, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  28. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
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