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Informal unemployment insurance and labor market dynamics

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  • Kyle F. Herkenhoff

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Kyle F. Herkenhoff, 2012. "Informal unemployment insurance and labor market dynamics," Working Papers 2012-057, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2012-057
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Why so many debt defaults?
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2013-01-04 21:32:00

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Lukasz A. Drozd & Ricardo Serrano-Padial, 2013. "Modeling the credit card revolution: the role of debt collection and informal bankruptcy," Working Papers 13-12, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    2. Kyle Herkenhoff, 2014. "The Impact of Consumer Credit Access on Unemployment," 2014 Meeting Papers 448, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    3. Gordon Phillips & Kyle Herkenhoff, 2015. "The Impact of Consumer Credit Constraints on Earnings, Sorting, and Job Finding Rates of Displaced Workers," 2015 Meeting Papers 375, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    4. Natalia Kovrijnykh & Igor Livshits, 2017. "Screening As A Unified Theory Of Delinquency, Renegotiation, And Bankruptcy," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 58, pages 499-527, May.
    5. Daphne Chen & Jake Zhao, 2017. "The Impact of Personal Bankruptcy on Labor Supply Decisions," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 26, pages 40-61, October.
    6. Igor Livshits, 2015. "Recent Developments In Consumer Credit And Default Literature," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(4), pages 594-613, September.
    7. Xavier Mateos-Planas & Giulio Seccia, 2013. "Consumer Default with Complete Markets: Default-based Pricing and Finite Punishment," Working Papers 711, Queen Mary University of London, School of Economics and Finance.
    8. Bednarzik, Robert W. & Kern, Andreas & Hisnanick, John J., 2017. "Displacement and Debt: The Role of Debt in Returning to Work in the Period Following the Great Recession," IZA Discussion Papers 10764, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Xavier Mateos-Planas & Giulio Seccia, 2014. "Consumer default with complete markets: default-based pricing and finite punishment," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 56(3), pages 549-583, August.

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    Keywords

    Unemployment ; Insurance ; Labor market;

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