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Unemployment benefits or taxes: How should policy makers redistribute income over the business cycle?

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  • Ek, Susanne

    () (Department of Economics)

Abstract

This paper studies optimal unemployment bene…fit levels and optimal proportional income tax rates over the business cycle. Previous research suggests that policy makers should make unemployment insurance (UI) dependent on the business cycle because the UI system can be used to smooth consumption across different economic states. However, high bene…fits increase unemployment. An alternative way to redistribute income is to vary tax rates over the business cycle. In this paper, we develop an equilibrium search and matching model with risk-averse workers and two states, namely, a good and a bad state. The model yields potential ambiguity concerning the welfare effects of business cycle-dependent UI. The model is calibrated to United States (U.S.) labor market data. The numerical results suggest that higher benefi…ts in the bad state are optimal, but the benefi…t differential is small. A more e¢ cient way for policy makers to redistribute income over the business cycle is to decrease taxes in the bad state. Compared to an optimal uniform system, however, di¤erentiation yields small welfare gains. Nevertheless, imposing two tax rates strictly dominates imposing two bene…t levels. This fi…nding is robust to a wide range of sensitivity checks.

Suggested Citation

  • Ek, Susanne, 2012. "Unemployment benefits or taxes: How should policy makers redistribute income over the business cycle?," Working Paper Series 2012:2, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:uunewp:2012_002
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Landais, Camille & Michaillat, Pascal & Saez, Emmanuel, 2010. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance over the Business Cycle," CEPR Discussion Papers 8132, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Kiley Michael T., 2003. "How Should Unemployment Benefits Respond to the Business Cycle?," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 3(1), pages 1-22, July.
    3. Kurt Mitman & Stanislav Rabinovich, 2011. "Pro-Cyclical Unemployment Benefits? Optimal Policy in an Equilibrium Business Cycle Model," PIER Working Paper Archive 11-010, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
    4. Pierre Cahuc & André Zylberberg, 2004. "Labor Economics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026203316x, January.
    5. Camille Landais & Pascal Michaillat & Emmanuel Saez, 2010. "A Macroeconomic Theory of Optimal Unemployment Insurance," NBER Working Papers 16526, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Torben M. Andersen & Michael Svarer, 2011. "State Dependent Unemployment Benefits," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 78(2), pages 325-344, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Job search; business cycles; unemployment insurance; time-varying bene…ts and taxes;

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search
    • J65 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment Insurance; Severance Pay; Plant Closings

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