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Designing Optimal Disability Insurance: A Case for Asset Testing

  • Mikhail Golosov
  • Aleh Tsyvinski

The paper analyzes an implementation of an optimal disability insurance system as a competitive equilibrium with taxes. The problem is modeled as a dynamic mechanism design problem in which disability is unobservable. We show that an asset-tested disability system in which a disability transfer is paid only if an agent has assets below a specified maximum implements the optimum. The logic behind the result is as follows: we show that an agent who falsely claims disability has higher savings than a truly disabled agent, and an asset test prevents false claimants from receiving disability. We also evaluate welfare benefits of asset testing. For a calibrated economy, we numerically compare the optimal system to the best system without asset testing. We find that gains of asset testing are significant and equal to about 0.65% of consumption.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10792.

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Date of creation: Sep 2004
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Publication status: published as Golosov, Mikhail and Aleh Tsyvinski. "Designing Optimal Disability Insurance: A Case For Asset Testing," Journal of Political Economy, 2006, v114(2,Apr), 257-279.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10792
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  8. Mikhail Golosov & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2006. "Optimal Taxation with Endogenous Insurance Markets," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000445, UCLA Department of Economics.
  9. Narayana R. Kocherlakota, 2005. "Zero Expected Wealth Taxes: A Mirrlees Approach to Dynamic Optimal Taxation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(5), pages 1587-1621, 09.
  10. Hugo Benitez-Silva & Moshe Buchinsky & Hiu Man Chan & Sofia Cheidvasser & John Rust, 2000. "How Large is the Bias is Self-Reported Disability?," NBER Working Papers 7526, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  12. Hansen, Gary D & Imrohoroglu, Ayse, 1992. "The Role of Unemployment Insurance in an Economy with Liquidity Constraints and Moral Hazard," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(1), pages 118-42, February.
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  16. Mirrlees, J. A., 1976. "Optimal tax theory : A synthesis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 327-358, November.
  17. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1995. "The Design of Income Maintenance Programmes," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(2), pages 187-221, April.
  18. Stefania Albanesi & Christopher Sleet, 2006. "Dynamic Optimal Taxation with Private Information," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(1), pages 1-30.
  19. Rios-Rull, Jose-Victor, 1996. "Life-Cycle Economies and Aggregate Fluctuations," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(3), pages 465-89, July.
  20. Abraham Arpad & Nicola Pavoni, 2004. "Efficient Allocations, with Moral Hazard and Hidden Borrowing and Lending," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000138, UCLA Department of Economics.
  21. Narayana Kocherlakota, 2004. "Figuring out the Impact of Hidden Savings on Optimal Unemployment Insurance," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 7(3), pages 541-554, July.
  22. Diamond, P. A. & Mirrlees, J. A., 1978. "A model of social insurance with variable retirement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 295-336, December.
  23. Martin Feldstein, 1985. "Should Social Security Be Means Tested?," NBER Working Papers 1775, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Diamond, Peter A & Mirrlees, James A, 1986. " Payroll-Tax Financed Social Insurance with Variable Retirement," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 88(1), pages 25-50.
  25. Gilbert Ghez & Gary S. Becker, 1975. "The Allocation of Time and Goods over the Life Cycle," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number ghez75-1, October.
  26. Bound, John & Burkhauser, Richard V., 1999. "Economic analysis of transfer programs targeted on people with disabilities," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 51, pages 3417-3528 Elsevier.
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