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Can the Unemployed Borrow? Implications for Public Insurance

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  • J. Carter Braxton
  • Kyle F. Herkenhoff
  • Gordon M. Phillips

Abstract

We show that unemployed individuals maintain significant access to credit. Following job loss, the unconstrained borrow, while the constrained default and delever. Both defaulters and borrowers are using credit to smooth consumption. We quantitatively show that long-term credit relationships and credit-registries allow the unemployed to partially offset income losses using credit. We estimate the model and find that the optimal provision of public insurance is unambiguously lower with greater credit access. Using a utilitarian welfare criterion, the optimal steady-state policy is to lower the replacement rate of public insurance from the current US policy of 41.2% to 38.3%. Moreover, lowering the replacement rate to 38.3% yields welfare gains to the majority of workers along the transition path.

Suggested Citation

  • J. Carter Braxton & Kyle F. Herkenhoff & Gordon M. Phillips, 2020. "Can the Unemployed Borrow? Implications for Public Insurance," NBER Working Papers 27026, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:27026
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • G51 - Financial Economics - - Household Finance - - - Household Savings, Borrowing, Debt, and Wealth
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search

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