IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

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

  • Raj Chetty

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.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11760.

in new window

Date of creation: Nov 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11760
Note: LS PE
Contact details of provider: Postal:
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.

Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Thomas Crossley & Hamish Low, 2004. "When Might Unemployment Insurance Matter?," Department of Economics Working Papers 2004-04, McMaster University.
  2. Blundell, Richard & Macurdy, Thomas, 1999. "Labor supply: A review of alternative approaches," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 27, pages 1559-1695 Elsevier.
  3. Rasmus Lentz, 2003. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance in an Estimated Job Search Model with Savings," CAM Working Papers 2004-10, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. Centre for Applied Microeconometrics.
  4. Topel, Robert H, 1983. "On Layoffs and Unemployment Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 541-59, September.
  5. Mário Centeno, 2004. "The Match Quality Gains from Unemployment Insurance," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(3).
  6. Martin Browning & Thomas Crossley, 1996. "Unemployment Insurance Benefit Levels and Consumption Changes," Discussion Papers 96-11, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  7. Patricia M. Anderson & Bruce D. Meyer, 1997. "Unemployment Insurance Takeup Rates and the After-Tax Value of Benefits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(3), pages 913-937.
  8. Moffitt, Robert, 1985. "Unemployment insurance and the distribution of unemployment spells," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 85-101, April.
  9. Bruce D. Meyer, 1988. "Unemployment Insurance And Unemployment Spells," NBER Working Papers 2546, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. James Sullivan, 2005. "Borrowing during unemployment: unsecured debt as a safety net," Proceedings 958, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  11. Daron Acemoglu & Robert Shimer, 1998. "Efficient Unemployment Insurance," NBER Working Papers 6686, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Jonathan Gruber, 2001. "The Wealth of the Unemployed," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 55(1), pages 79-94, October.
  13. MaCurdy, Thomas E, 1981. "An Empirical Model of Labor Supply in a Life-Cycle Setting," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(6), pages 1059-85, December.
  14. Edi Karni, 1999. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance: A Survey," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 442-465, October.
  15. Lawrence F. Katz & Bruce D. Meyer, 1988. "The Impact of the Potential Duration of Unemployment Benefits on the Duration of Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 2741, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. 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.
  17. Bloemen, Hans G. & Stancanelli, Elena G.F., 2001. "Financial wealth, consumption smoothing, and income shocks due to job loss," Serie Research Memoranda 0036, VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Econometrics.
  18. 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.
  19. Gruber, Jonathan, 1997. "The Consumption Smoothing Benefits of Unemployment Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 192-205, March.
  20. Jonathan Gruber, 1994. "The Consumption Smoothing Benefits of Unemployment Insurance," NBER Working Papers 4750, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11760. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.