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Income Risk and the Benefits of Social Insurance: Evidence from Indonesia and the United States

  • Raj Chetty
  • Adam Looney

This paper examines the welfare consequences of social safety nets in developing economies relative to developed economies. Using panel surveys of households in Indonesia and the United States, we find that food consumption falls by approximately ten percent when individuals become unemployed in both countries. This finding suggests that introducing a formal social insurance program would have small benefits in terms of reducing consumption fluctuations in Indonesia. However, in contrast with households in the U.S., Indonesians use costly methods such as reducing human capital investment to smooth consumption. The primary benefit of social insurance in developing countries may therefore come not from consumption smoothing itself but from reducing the use of inefficient smoothing methods.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11708.

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Date of creation: Oct 2005
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Ito, T. and A. Rose. Fiscal Policy and Management in East Asia: NBER East Asia Seminar on Economics 16. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11708
Note: PE
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  1. Zeldes, Stephen P, 1989. "Consumption and Liquidity Constraints: An Empirical Investigation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(2), pages 305-46, April.
  2. Gertler, Paul & Levine, David I. & Moretti, Enrico, 2003. "Do Microfinance Programs Help Families Insure Consumption Against Illness?," Center for International and Development Economics Research, Working Paper Series qt5811j217, Center for International and Development Economics Research, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
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  7. Raj Chetty & Adam Looney, 2005. "Consumption Smoothing and the Welfare Consequences of Social Insurance in Developing Economies," NBER Working Papers 11709, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Lisa A. Cameron & Christopher Worswick, 2003. "The Labor Market as a Smoothing Device: Labor Supply Responses to Crop Loss," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 7(2), pages 327-341, 05.
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  11. Frankenberg, E. & Thomas, D. & Beegle, K., 1999. "The Real Costs of Indonesia's Economic Crisis: Preliminary Findings from the Indonesia Family Life Surveys," Papers 99-04, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
  12. Paul Gertler & Jonathan Gruber, 1997. "Insuring Consumption Against Illness," NBER Working Papers 6035, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  14. Robert Holzmann & Steen Jorgensen, 2000. "Social risk management : a new conceptual framework for social protection and beyond," Social Protection Discussion Papers 21314, The World Bank.
  15. Jonathan Morduch, 1995. "Income Smoothing and Consumption Smoothing," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1727, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  16. Susan Dynarski & Jonathan Gruber, 1997. "Can Families Smooth Variable Earnings?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 28(1), pages 229-303.
  17. Thomas, D. & Beegle, K. & Frankenberg, E., 2000. "Labor Market Transitions of Men and Women During an Economic Crisis: Evidence from Indonesia," Papers 00-11, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
  18. Thomas, Duncan & Beegle, Kathleen & Frankenberg, Elizabeth & Sikoki, Bondan & Strauss, John & Teruel, Graciela, 2004. "Education in a crisis," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 53-85, June.
  19. Jonathan Gruber, 1994. "The Consumption Smoothing Benefits of Unemployment Insurance," NBER Working Papers 4750, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Cullen, Julie Berry & Gruber, Jonathan, 2000. "Does Unemployment Insurance Crowd Out Spousal Labor Supply?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 546-72, July.
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  22. Cochrane, John H, 1991. "A Simple Test of Consumption Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 957-76, October.
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