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Do Unemployment Benefits Increase Unemployment? New Evidence on an Old Question

  • Fredriksson, Peter


    (Stockholm University)

  • Söderström, Martin


    (National Institute of Economic Research - NIER)

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 Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 3570.

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Length: 39 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3570
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  1. 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.
  2. David Card & Phillip B. Levine, 1998. "Extended Benefits and the Duration of UI Spells: Evidence from the New Jersey Extended Benefit Program," NBER Working Papers 6714, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Edin, P.-A. & Fredriksson, P., 2000. "LINDA - Longitudinal INdividual DAta for Sweden," Papers 2000:19, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
  4. Peter Fredriksson & Bertil Holmlund, 2003. "Improving Incentives in Unemployment Insurance: A Review of Recent Research," CESifo Working Paper Series 922, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. Fredriksson, P., 1995. "The Dynamics of Regional Labour Markets and Active Labour Market Policy: Swedish Evidence," Papers 1995-20, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
  6. Holmlund, Bertil, 1997. "Unemployment Insurance in Theory and Practice," Working Paper Series 1997:25, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Lalive, Rafael & Zweimüller, Josef, 2002. "Benefit Entitlement and Unemployment Duration: The Role of Policy Endogeneity," IZA Discussion Papers 492, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Richard B. Freeman & Lawrence F. Katz, 1995. "Differences and Changes in Wage Structures," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number free95-1, December.
  11. Krueger, Alan B. & Meyer, Bruce D., 2002. "Labor supply effects of social insurance," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 33, pages 2327-2392 Elsevier.
  12. Nickell, Stephen, 1998. "Unemployment: Questions and Some Answers," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(448), pages 802-16, May.
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