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On the Distribution of the Welfare Losses of Large Recessions

Author

Listed:
  • Krueger, Dirk

    (University of Pennsylvania)

  • Mitman, Kurt

    (Stockholm University)

  • Perri, Fabrizio

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis)

Abstract

How big are the welfare losses from severe economic downturns, such as the U.S. Great Recession? How are those losses distributed across the population? In this paper we answer these questions using a canonical business cycle model featuring household income and wealth heterogeneity that matches micro data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). We document how these losses are distributed across households and how they are affected by social insurance policies. We find that the welfare cost of losing one’s job in a severe recession ranges from 2% of lifetime consumption for the wealthiest households to 5% for low-wealth households. The cost increases to approximately 8% for low-wealth households if unemployment insurance benefits are cut from 50% to 10%. The fact that welfare losses fall with wealth, and that in our model (as in the data) a large fraction of households has very low wealth, implies that the impact of a severe recession, once aggregated across all households, is very significant (2.2% of lifetime consumption). We finally show that a more generous unemployment insurance system unequivocally helps low-wealth job losers, but hurts households that keep their job, even in a version of the model in which output is partly demand determined, and therefore unemployment insurance stabilizes aggregate demand and output.

Suggested Citation

  • Krueger, Dirk & Mitman, Kurt & Perri, Fabrizio, 2016. "On the Distribution of the Welfare Losses of Large Recessions," Staff Report 532, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmsr:532
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Mariacristina De Nardi, 2015. "Quantitative Models of Wealth Inequality: A Survey," NBER Working Papers 21106, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    5. Marcus Hagedorn & Fatih Karahan & Iourii Manovskii & Kurt Mitman, 2013. "Unemployment Benefits and Unemployment in the Great Recession: The Role of Macro Effects," NBER Working Papers 19499, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Krueger, D. & Mitman, K. & Perri, F., 2016. "Macroeconomics and Household Heterogeneity," Handbook of Macroeconomics, Elsevier.
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    Cited by:

    1. Krueger, D. & Mitman, K. & Perri, F., 2016. "Macroeconomics and Household Heterogeneity," Handbook of Macroeconomics, Elsevier.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Great Recession; Wealth inequality; Social insurance; Welfare loss from recessions;

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • J65 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment Insurance; Severance Pay; Plant Closings

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