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Optimal unemployment insurance and cyclical fluctuations

Author

Listed:
  • Williams, Noah

    () (University of Wisconsin–Madison)

  • Li, Rui

    () (University of Massachusetts–Boston)

Abstract

The authors study the design of optimal unemployment insurance in an environment with moral hazard and cyclical fluctuations. The optimal unemployment insurance contract balances the insurance motive to provide consumption for the unemployed with the provision of incentives to search for a job. This balance is affected by aggregate conditions, as recessions are characterized by reductions in job finding rates. We show how benefits should vary with aggregate conditions in an optimal contract. In a special case of the model, the optimal contract can be solved in closed form. We show how this contract can be implemented in a rather simple way by allowing unemployed workers to borrow and save in a bond (whose return depends on the state of the economy), providing flow payments that are constant over an unemployment spell but vary with the aggregate state, and giving additional lump-sum payments (or charges) upon finding a job or when the aggregate state switches. We then consider a calibrated version of the model and study the quantitative impact of changing from the current unemployment system to the optimal one. In a recession, the optimal system reduces unemployment rates by roughly 2.5 percentage points and shortens the duration of unemployment by about 50 percent.

Suggested Citation

  • Williams, Noah & Li, Rui, 2015. "Optimal unemployment insurance and cyclical fluctuations," FRB Atlanta CQER Working Paper 2015-2, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedacq:15-02
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Meyer, Bruce D, 1990. "Unemployment Insurance and Unemployment Spells," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(4), pages 757-782, July.
    2. Landais, Camille & Michaillat, Pascal & Saez, Emmanuel, 2010. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance over the Business Cycle," CEPR Discussion Papers 8132, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Philip K. Robins & Robert G. Spiegelman (ed.), 2001. "Reemployment Bonuses in the Unemployment Insurance System: Evidence from Three Field Experiments," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number rbuis, November.
    4. Shavell, Steven & Weiss, Laurence, 1979. "The Optimal Payment of Unemployment Insurance Benefits over Time," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1347-1362, December.
    5. Kory Kroft & Matthew J. Notowidigdo, 2016. "Should Unemployment Insurance Vary with the Unemployment Rate? Theory and Evidence," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(3), pages 1092-1124.
    6. Zhiguo He, 2012. "Dynamic Compensation Contracts with Private Savings," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 25(5), pages 1494-1549.
    7. Noah Williams, 2011. "Persistent Private Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(4), pages 1233-1275, July.
    8. Raj Chetty, 2008. "Moral Hazard versus Liquidity and Optimal Unemployment Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(2), pages 173-234, April.
    9. Tomasz Piskorski & Alexei Tchistyi, 2011. "Stochastic House Appreciation and Optimal Mortgage Lending," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 24(5), pages 1407-1446.
    10. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1987. "Aggregation and Linearity in the Provision of Intertemporal Incentives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(2), pages 303-328, March.
    11. Raj Chetty, 2008. "Moral Hazard versus Liquidity and Optimal Unemployment Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(2), pages 173-234, April.
    12. Sánchez, Juan M., 2008. "Optimal state-contingent unemployment insurance," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 98(3), pages 348-357, March.
    13. Robert Shimer, 2012. "Reassessing the Ins and Outs of Unemployment," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 15(2), pages 127-148, April.
    14. Hopenhayn, Hugo A & Nicolini, Juan Pablo, 1997. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(2), pages 412-438, April.
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    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Optimal Unemployment Insurance and Cyclical Fluctuations
      by Christian Zimmermann in NEP-DGE blog on 2015-11-13 20:31:54

    More about this item

    Keywords

    optimal contract; unemployment benefits; lump-sum payments; welfare; unemployment durations;

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles

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