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Why do Unemployment Benefits Raise Unemployment Durations? Moral Hazard vs. Liquidity

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  • Raj Chetty

Abstract

It is well known that unemployment benefits raise unemployment durations. This result has traditionally been interpreted as a substitution effect caused by a distortion in the price of leisure relative to consumption, leading to moral hazard. This paper questions this interpretation by showing that unemployment benefits can also affect durations through an income effect for agents with limited liquidity. The empirical relevance of liquidity constraints and income effects is evaluated in two ways. First, I divide households into groups that are likely to be constrained and unconstrained based on proxies such as asset holdings. I find that increases in unemployment benefits have small effects on durations in the unconstrained groups but large effects in the constrained groups. Second, I find that lump-sum severance payments granted at the time of job loss significantly increase durations among constrained households. These results suggest that unemployment benefits raise durations primarily because of an income effect induced by liquidity constraints rather than moral hazard from distorted incentives.

Suggested Citation

  • Raj Chetty, 2005. "Why do Unemployment Benefits Raise Unemployment Durations? Moral Hazard vs. Liquidity," NBER Working Papers 11760, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11760
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. William Adams & Liran Einav & Jonathan Levin, 2009. "Liquidity Constraints and Imperfect Information in Subprime Lending," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 49-84, March.
    2. David Card & Raj Chetty & Andrea Weber, 2007. "Cash-on-Hand and Competing Models of Intertemporal Behavior: New Evidence from the Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(4), pages 1511-1560.
    3. Chetty, Raj, 2006. "A general formula for the optimal level of social insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(10-11), pages 1879-1901, November.
    4. Lorenzo Corsini, 2011. "On Wealth, Unemployment Benefits and Unemployment Duration: some Evidence from Italy," Discussion Papers 2011/119, Dipartimento di Economia e Management (DEM), University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy.
    5. Reichling, Felix, 2006. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance in Labor Market Equilibrium when Workers can Self-Insure," MPRA Paper 5362, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 16 Oct 2007.
    6. Bruce D. Meyer & Wallace K. C. Mok, 2007. "Quasi-Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Unemployment Insurance from New York State," NBER Working Papers 12865, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Charlotte Cavaillé, 2015. "Deservingness, Self-Interest and the Welfare State: Why Some Care More about Deservingness than Others and Why It Matters," LIS Working papers 652, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    8. Tetsuo Ono, 2010. "Growth and unemployment in an OLG economy with public pensions," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 23(2), pages 737-767, March.

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    JEL classification:

    • H0 - Public Economics - - General

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