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Informal unemployment insurance and labor market dynamics

  • Kyle F. Herkenhoff

How do job losers use default -- a phenomenon 6x more prevalent than bankruptcy --as a type of “informal" unemployment insurance, and more importantly, what are the social costs and benefits of this behavior? To this end, I establish several new facts: (i) job loss is the main reason for default, not negative equity (ii) people default because they are credit constrained and cannot borrow more, and (iii) the value of debt payments is a significant fraction of a defaulter's earnings. Using these facts, I calibrate a general equilibrium model with a frictional labor market similar to Burdett and Mortensen (1998) and Menzio and Shi (2009, 2011) and individually priced debt along the lines of Eaton and Gersovitz (1981) and Chatterjee et al. (2007). After proving the existence of a Block Recursive Equilibrium, I find that the extra self- insurance job losers obtain by defaulting outweighs the subsequent increase in the cost of credit, and as a result, protectionist policies such as the Mortgage Servicer Settlement of 2012 or the CARD Act of 2009 improve overall welfare by .1%. The side effect of the policies, however, is a .2-.5% higher unemployment rate during recessions that persists throughout the recovery.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in its series Working Papers with number 2012-057.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2012-057
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  3. Lars Ljungqvist & Thomas J. Sargent, 1995. "The European unemployment dilemma," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues 95-17, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  4. Guido Menzio & Shouyong Shi, 2008. "Efficient Search on the Job and the Business Cycle, Second Version," PIER Working Paper Archive 09-010, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 28 Feb 2009.
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  8. Guido Menzio & Shouyong Shi, 2008. "Efficient Search on the Job and the Business Cycle," Working Papers tecipa-327, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  9. Guido Menzio & Shouyong Shi, 2009. "Block Recursive Equilibria for Stochastic Models of Search on the Job," Working Papers tecipa-347, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
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  13. Athreya, Kartik B., 2002. "Welfare implications of the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1999," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(8), pages 1567-1595, November.
  14. Satyajit Chatterjee, 2010. "An Equilibrium Model of the Timing of Bankruptcy Filings," 2010 Meeting Papers 1282, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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  17. Juan Carlos Hatchondo & Leonardo Martinez & Juan M. Sanchez, 2015. "Mortgage Defaults," Caepr Working Papers 2015-011 Classification-D, Center for Applied Economics and Policy Research, Economics Department, Indiana University Bloomington.
  18. Xavier Mateos-Planas, 2011. "Consumer default with complete markets," 2011 Meeting Papers 954, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  19. Mark Furletti, 2003. "Consumer bankruptcy: how unsecured lenders fare," Payment Cards Center Discussion Paper 03-17, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  20. Chatterjee, Satyajit & Corbae, Dean & Ríos-Rull, José-Víctor, 2008. "A finite-life private-information theory of unsecured consumer debt," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 142(1), pages 149-177, September.
  21. Araújo, Aloísio Pessoa de & Funchal, Bruno, 2006. "How much debtors' punishment?," Economics Working Papers (Ensaios Economicos da EPGE) 615, FGV/EPGE Escola Brasileira de Economia e Finanças, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil).
  22. David K. Musto, 2004. "What Happens When Information Leaves a Market? Evidence from Postbankruptcy Consumers," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 77(4), pages 725-748, October.
  23. Jesse Rothstein, 2011. "Unemployment Insurance and Job Search in the Great Recession," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 43(2 (Fall)), pages 143-213.
  24. Marcus Hagedorn & Iourii Manovskii, 2005. "The Cyclical Behavior of Equilibrium Unemployment and Vacancies Revisited," 2005 Meeting Papers 460, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  25. Xavier Mateos-Planas & David Benjamin, 2012. "Formal vs. Informal Default in Consumer Credit," 2012 Meeting Papers 144, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  26. Victor Rios-Rull & Dean Corbae: & Satyajit Chatterjee, 2011. "A Theory of Credit Scoring and the Competitive Pricing of Default Risk," 2011 Meeting Papers 1115, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  27. Merz, Monika, 1995. "Search in the labor market and the real business cycle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 269-300, November.
  28. David Benjamin, 2008. "Recovery Before Redemption," 2008 Meeting Papers 531, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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