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Spousal Labor Supply Response to Job Displacement and Implications for Optimal Transfers

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Abstract

I document a small spousal earnings response to the job displacement of the family head. The response is even smaller in recessions, when earnings losses are larger and additional insurance is most valuable. I investigate whether the small response is an outcome of the crowding-out effects of government transfers. To accomplish this, I use an incomplete markets model with family labor supply and aggregate fluctuations where predicted spousal labor supply elasticities with respect to transfers are in line with microeconomic estimates both in aggregate and across subpopulations. Counterfactual experiments indeed reveal that generous transfers in recessions discourage the spousal labor supply significantly. I then show that the optimal policy features procyclical means-tested and countercyclical employment-tested transfers, unlike the existing policy that maintains generous transfers of both types in recessions. Abstracting from the incentive costs of transfers on the spousal labor supply changes both the level and cyclicality of optimal transfers.

Suggested Citation

  • Serdar Birinci, 2019. "Spousal Labor Supply Response to Job Displacement and Implications for Optimal Transfers," Working Papers 2019-020, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, revised Jan 2020.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:88548
    DOI: 10.20955/wp.2019.020
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    Cited by:

    1. Titan Alon & Matthias Doepke & Jane Olmstead-Rumsey, 2020. "This Time It’s Different: The Role of Women’s Employment in a Pandemic Recession," Working Papers 2020-057, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    2. Serdar Birinci & Fatih Karahan & Yusuf Mercan & Kurt See, 2020. "Labor Market Policies During an Epidemic," Staff Working Papers 20-54, Bank of Canada.
    3. Nezih Guner & Yuliya Kulikova & Arnau Valladares-Esteban, 2020. "Does the Added Worker Effect Matter?," Working Papers wp2020_2001, CEMFI.
    4. Daniel Fackler & Eva Weigt, 2020. "Who Buffers Income Losses after Job Displacement? The Role of Alternative Income Sources, the Family, and the State," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 34(3), pages 239-276, September.
    5. Birinci, Serdar & Karahan, Fatih & Mercan, Yusuf & See, Kurt, 2021. "Labor market policies during an epidemic," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 194(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Unemployment; Job Search; Business Cycles; Fiscal Policy and Household Behavior;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search

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