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Fiscal Externalities and Optimal Unemployment Insurance

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  • Nicholas Lawson

    () (GREQAM - Groupement de Recherche en Économie Quantitative d'Aix-Marseille - ECM - Ecole Centrale de Marseille - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - AMU - Aix Marseille Université - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales)

Abstract

A common finding of the optimal unemployment insurance literature is that the optimal UI replacement rate is around 50%, implying that current levels in the US are close to optimal. However, a key assumption in the existing literature is that unemployment benefits are the only government spending activity. In this paper I show that recommendations for optimal UI levels are dramatically reduced when one incorporates the fact that UI spending is a small part of overall government spending. This occurs because the negative impact of UI on income tax revenues implies added welfare costs, a mechanism that I refer to as a fiscal externality. Using both a calibrated structural job search model and a "suffcient statistics" method that relies on reduced-form elasticities, I find that the optimal replacement rate drops to zero once fiscal externalities are incorporated. However, I also consider the possibility that more generous UI could increase reservation wages and thus potentially increase the tax base, and I show that this second fiscal externality could have important effects on the results, with an optimal replacement rate which could rise above 70%.

Suggested Citation

  • Nicholas Lawson, 2013. "Fiscal Externalities and Optimal Unemployment Insurance," Working Papers halshs-00907807, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:wpaper:halshs-00907807
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00907807
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Nicholas Lawson, 2014. "Social Program Substitution and Optimal Policy," Working Papers halshs-00993127, HAL.
    2. Lawson, Nicholas, 2015. "Social program substitution and optimal policy," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 13-27.
    3. Nicholas Lawson, 2014. "Liquidity Constraints, Fiscal Externalities and Optimal Tuition Subsidies Optimal College Tuition Subsidies," AMSE Working Papers 1404, Aix-Marseille School of Economics, Marseille, France, revised 18 Mar 2014.
    4. Nicholas Lawson, 2014. "Liquidity Constraints, Fiscal Externalities and Optimal Tuition Subsidies," Working Papers halshs-00964527, HAL.
    5. Nicholas Lawson, 2014. "Social Program Substitution and Optimal Policy," AMSE Working Papers 1417, Aix-Marseille School of Economics, Marseille, France, revised 16 May 2014.

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    Keywords

    government spending; unemployment insurance; job search; suffcient statistics; fiscal externality;

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