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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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  10. Mikhail Golosov & Narayana Kocherlakota & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2003. "Optimal Indirect and Capital Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(3), pages 569-587.
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  13. Hugo Benitez-Silva & Moshe Buchinsky & John Rust, 2004. "How Large are the Classification Errors in the Social Security Disability Award Process?," NBER Working Papers 10219, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  17. 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.
  18. Rios-Rull, Jose-Victor, 1996. "Life-Cycle Economies and Aggregate Fluctuations," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(3), pages 465-89, July.
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  20. Abraham, Arpad & Pavoni, Nicola, 2004. "Efficient Allocations with Moral Hazard and Hidden Borrowing and Lending," Working Papers 04-05, Duke University, Department of Economics.
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