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Spousal Labor Supply as Insurance: Does Unemployment Insurance Crowd Outthe Added Worker Effect?

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  • Jonathan Gruber
  • Julie Berry Cullen

Abstract

We consider the role of spousal labor supply as insurance against spells of unemployment. Standard theory suggests that women should work more when their husbands are out of work (the Added Worker Effect or AWE), but there has been little empirical support for this contention. We too find little evidence of an AWE over the 1984-1993 period. We suggest that one reason for the absence of the AWE may be that unemployment insurance (UI) is providing a state-contingent income stream that counteracts the negative income shock from the husband's unemployment. We in fact find that increases in the generosity of UI lower labor supply among wives of unemployed husbands. Our results suggest that UI is crowding out a sizeable fraction of offsetting spousal earnings in response to unemployment spells, although even in the absence of a UI system the spousal response would only make up a small share of the associated reduction in family income. We also find evidence that families are making labor supply decisions in a life cycle context, since there are effects of UI on the labor supply of wives of employed husbands who face high unemployment risk. Yet, couples do not appear able to smooth the labor supply response to UI income flows equally over periods of employment and unemployment, suggesting the presence of liquidity constraints. Finally, wives in families with small children are more responsive to UI benefits in their labor supply decisions, which is consistent with the notion that they have a higher opportunity cost of market work.

Suggested Citation

  • Jonathan Gruber & Julie Berry Cullen, 1996. "Spousal Labor Supply as Insurance: Does Unemployment Insurance Crowd Outthe Added Worker Effect?," NBER Working Papers 5608, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5608 Note: PE LS
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Olivier Blanchard & Lawrence F. Katz, 1997. "What We Know and Do Not Know about the Natural Rate of Unemployment," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(1), pages 51-72, Winter.
    2. Browning, Martin & Crossley, Thomas F., 2001. "Unemployment insurance benefit levels and consumption changes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 1-23, April.
    3. Jorge A. Paz, 2001. "El efecto del trabajador adicional. Evidencias para la Argentina," CEMA Working Papers: Serie Documentos de Trabajo. 201, Universidad del CEMA.
    4. Melvin Stephens, 2002. "Worker Displacement and the Added Worker Effect," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(3), pages 504-537, July.
    5. Nordblom, Katarina, 1997. "Precautionary Saving and Altruism," Working Paper Series 1997:19, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    6. Umaña-Aponte, Marcela & Bhalotra, Sonia R., 2012. "Women's Labour Supply and Household Insurance in Africa," WIDER Working Paper Series 066, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    7. Pieter Serneels, 2002. "The added worked effect and intra household aspects of unemployment," CSAE Working Paper Series 2002-14, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
    8. Javier Fernandez-Blanco, 2017. "Unemployment Risks and Intra-Household Insurance," 2017 Meeting Papers 478, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    9. Kerry McGeary, 2009. "How do health shocks influence retirement decisions?," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 7(3), pages 307-321, September.
    10. Casey B. Mulligan & Yona Rubinstein, 2004. "Household vs. Personal Accounts of the U.S. Labor Market, 1965-2000," NBER Working Papers 10320, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Skoufias, Emmanual & Parker, Susan W., 2002. "Labor market shocks and their impacts on work and schooling," FCND discussion papers 129, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    12. Glismann, Hans H. & Schrader, Klaus, 2001. "Alternative Systeme der Arbeitslosenversicherung: das Beispiel der Vereinigten Staaten und des Vereinigten Königreichs," Kiel Working Papers 1032, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    13. 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.
    14. Mazzutti, Caio Cícero Toledo Piza da Costa, 2016. "Three essays on the causal impacts of child labour laws in Brazil," Economics PhD Theses 0616, Department of Economics, University of Sussex.
    15. Ernest P. Goss & Joseph M. Phillips, 1997. "The Impact of Home Ownership on the Duration of Unemployment," The Review of Regional Studies, Southern Regional Science Association, vol. 27(1), pages 9-27, Summer.
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    17. Maurizio Bovi & Massimo Mancini, 2016. "Recessions, expectations, and labor supply dynamics," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 50(2), pages 653-671, March.
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    20. Jonathan Gruber, 1999. "The Wealth of the Unemployed: Adequacy and Implications for Unemployment Insurance," NBER Working Papers 7348, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    22. Courtney C. Coile, 2004. "Health Shocks and Couples' Labor Supply Decisions," NBER Working Papers 10810, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    23. Hazel Jean Malapit & Jade Eric Redoblado & Deanna Margarett Cabungcal-Dolor & Jasmin Suministrado, 2006. "Labor Supply Responses to Adverse Shocks under Credit Constraints: Evidence from Bukidnon, Philippines," Working Papers PMMA 2006-15, PEP-PMMA.
    24. William Elming & Andreas Ermler, 2016. "Housing equity, saving and debt dynamics over the Great Recession," IFS Working Papers W16/12, Institute for Fiscal Studies.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search
    • J65 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment Insurance; Severance Pay; Plant Closings

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