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Do unemployment benefits increase unemployment? New evidence on an old question

  • Fredriksson, Peter

    ()

    (Nationalekonomiska institutionen)

  • Söderström, Martin

    (Ministry of Finance, Government of Sweden)

We examine the relationship between unemployment benefits and unemployment using Swedish regional data. To estimate the effect of an increase in unemployment insurance (UI) on unemployment we exploit the ceiling on UI benefits. The benefit ceiling, coupled with the fact that there are regional wage differentials, implies that the generosity of UI varies regionally. More importantly, the actual generosity of UI varies within region over time due to variations in the benefit ceiling. We find fairly robust evidence suggesting that the actual generosity of UI does matter for regional unemployment. Increases in the actual replacement rate contribute to higher unemployment as suggested by theory. We also show that removing the wage cap in UI benefit receipt would reduce the dispersion of regional unemployment. This result is due to the fact that low unemployment regions tend to be high wage regions where the benefit ceiling has a greater bite. Removing the benefit ceiling thus implies that the actual generosity of UI increases more in low unemployment regions.

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Paper provided by IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy in its series Working Paper Series with number 2008:15.

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Length: 38 pages
Date of creation: 20 May 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:ifauwp:2008_015
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  1. Lalive, Rafael & Zweimuller, Josef, 2004. "Benefit entitlement and unemployment duration: The role of policy endogeneity," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2587-2616, December.
  2. Edin, P.-A. & Fredriksson, P., 2000. "LINDA - Longitudinal INdividual DAta for Sweden," Papers 2000-19, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
  3. Fredriksson, Peter & Holmlund, Bertil, 2003. "Improving Incentives in Unemployment Insurance: A Review of Recent Research," Working Paper Series 2003:10, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  4. Nickell, Stephen, 1998. "Unemployment: Questions and Some Answers," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(448), pages 802-16, May.
  5. Card, David & Levine, Phillip B., 2000. "Extended benefits and the duration of UI spells: evidence from the New Jersey extended benefit program," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(1-2), pages 107-138, October.
  6. Carling, K. & Holmlund, B. & Vejsiu, A., 1999. "Do Benefit Cuts Boost Job Findings? Swedish Evidence from the 1990s," Papers 1999:20, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
  7. Katz, Lawrence F. & Meyer, Bruce D., 1990. "The impact of the potential duration of unemployment benefits on the duration of unemployment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 45-72, February.
  8. Atkinson, Anthony B & Micklewright, John, 1991. "Unemployment Compensation and Labor Market Transitions: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 29(4), pages 1679-1727, December.
  9. Fredriksson, Peter, 1999. "The Dynamics of Regional Labor Markets and Active Labor Market Policy: Swedish Evidence," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(4), pages 623-48, October.
  10. Holmlund, Bertil, 1998. " Unemployment Insurance in Theory and Practice," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 100(1), pages 113-41, March.
  11. Alan B. Krueger & Bruce D. Meyer, 2002. "Labor Supply Effects of Social Insurance," NBER Working Papers 9014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Richard B. Freeman & Lawrence F. Katz, 1995. "Differences and Changes in Wage Structures," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number free95-1, November.
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