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Liquidity and insurance for the unemployed

  • Robert Shimer
  • Iván Werning

We study the optimal design of unemployment insurance for workers sampling job opportunities over time. We focus on the optimal timing of benefits and the desirability of allowing workers to freely access a riskless asset. When workers have constant absolute risk aversion preferences, it is optimal to use a very simple policy: a constant benefit during unemployment, a constant tax during employment that does not depend on the duration of the spell, and free access to savings using a riskless asset. Away from this benchmark, for constant relative risk aversion preferences, the welfare gains of more elaborate policies are minuscule. Our results highlight two largely distinct roles for policy toward the unemployed: (a) ensuring workers have sufficient liquidity to smooth their consumption; and (b) providing unemployment benefits that serve as insurance against the uncertain duration of unemployment spells.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Staff Report with number 366.

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Date of creation: 2005
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmsr:366
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  1. Ljungqvist, Lars & Sargent, Thomas J., 1997. "The European Unemployment Dilemma," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 178, Stockholm School of Economics.
  2. Martin Feldstein & James M. Poterba, 1982. "Unemployment Insurance and Reservation Wages," NBER Working Papers 1011, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Mikhail Golosov & Narayana Kocherlakota & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2003. "Optimal Indirect and Capital Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(3), pages 569-587, 07.
  4. Martin Feldstein & Daniel Altman, 2007. "Unemployment Insurance Savings Accounts," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 21, pages 35-64 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Martin Feldstein, 2005. "Rethinking Social Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 1-24, March.
  6. Wang, Cheng & Williamson, Stephen, 1996. "Unemployment insurance with moral hazard in a dynamic economy," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 1-41, June.
  7. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1993. "Uninsured idiosyncratic risk and aggregate saving," Working Papers 502, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  8. Harold L. Cole & Narayana R. Kocherlakota, 1999. "Efficient allocations with hidden income and hidden storage," Staff Report 238, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  9. Edward C Prescott & Robert M Townsend, 2010. "Pareto Optima and Competitive Equilibria With Adverse Selection and Moral Hazard," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2069, David K. Levine.
  10. Lawrence F. Katz & Bruce D. Meyer, 1988. "The Impact of the Potential Duration of Unemployment Benefits on the Duration of Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 2741, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. McCall, John J, 1970. "Economics of Information and Job Search," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 113-26, February.
  12. Allen, Franklin, 1985. "Repeated principal-agent relationships with lending and borrowing," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 17(1-2), pages 27-31.
  13. Steven Shavell & Laurence Weiss, 1978. "The Optimal Payment of Unemployment Insurance Benefits over Time," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 503, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  14. Bruce D. Meyer, 1988. "Unemployment Insurance And Unemployment Spells," NBER Working Papers 2546, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Hopenhayn, H. & Nicolini, P.J., 1996. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance," RCER Working Papers 421, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  16. Lucas, Robert Jr. & Prescott, Edward C., 1974. "Equilibrium search and unemployment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 188-209, February.
  17. Pissarides, Christopher A, 1985. "Short-run Equilibrium Dynamics of Unemployment Vacancies, and Real Wages," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 676-90, September.
  18. Olivier Blanchard & Justin Wolfers, 1999. "The Role of Shocks and Institutions in the Rise of European Unemployment: The Aggregate Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7282, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Jonathan Gruber, 1994. "The Consumption Smoothing Benefits of Unemployment Insurance," NBER Working Papers 4750, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Spear, Stephen E & Srivastava, Sanjay, 1987. "On Repeated Moral Hazard with Discounting," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(4), pages 599-617, October.
  21. Gruber, Jonathan, 1997. "The Consumption Smoothing Benefits of Unemployment Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 192-205, March.
  22. Rogerson, William P, 1985. "Repeated Moral Hazard," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(1), pages 69-76, January.
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