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Less-Skilled Workers, Welfare Reform, and the Unemployment Insurance System

Author

Listed:
  • Cynthia K. Gustafson
  • Phillip B. Levine

Abstract

The declining economic position over the past two decades of those workers with less skill increases the importance of the unemployment insurance (UI) system in providing a safety net during periods of unemployment. Recent welfare reform legislation, designed to encourage labor market entry of typically very low-skilled workers who are likely to have unstable work patterns at best, potentially makes the UI system an even more critical component of the safety net. This paper seeks to determine how less-skilled workers typically fare in the UI system, estimating their likelihood of becoming eligible for and collecting benefits. We find that many workers who separate from a job, and particularly those with lower levels of skill, will not be compensated by the UI system. Although minimum earnings requirements keep some less-skilled job losers from receiving UI, it is the provision mandating that separations be involuntary' that prevents most workers from gaining UI eligibility. These findings suggest that the UI system will provide little additional support to the safety net following welfare reform.

Suggested Citation

  • Cynthia K. Gustafson & Phillip B. Levine, 1998. "Less-Skilled Workers, Welfare Reform, and the Unemployment Insurance System," NBER Working Papers 6489, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6489
    Note: LS
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w6489.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jonathan Gruber, 1994. "The Consumption Smoothing Benefits of Unemployment Insurance," NBER Working Papers 4750, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Rebecca M. Blank, 2001. "What Causes Public Assistance Caseloads to Grow?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 36(1), pages 85-118.
    3. Levy, Frank & Murnane, Richard J, 1992. "U.S. Earnings Levels and Earnings Inequality: A Review of Recent Trends and Proposed Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 1333-1381, September.
    4. Gottschalk, Peter & Maloney, Tim, 1985. "Involuntary Terminations, Unemployment, and Job Matching: A Test of Job Search Theory," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(2), pages 109-123, April.
    5. Gruber, Jonathan, 1997. "The Consumption Smoothing Benefits of Unemployment Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 192-205, March.
    6. repec:bin:bpeajo:v:26:y:1994:i:1994-3:p:177-248 is not listed on IDEAS
    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. McCall, Brian P, 1995. "The Impact of Unemployment Insurance Benefit Levels on Recipiency," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 13(2), pages 189-198, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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    Cited by:

    1. Gundersen, Craig & LeBlanc, Michael & Kuhn, Betsey A., 1999. "The Changing Food Assistance Landscape: The Food Stamp Program in a Post-Welfare Reform Environment," Agricultural Economics Reports 33993, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    2. Card, David & Levine, Phillip B., 2000. "Extended benefits and the duration of UI spells: evidence from the New Jersey extended benefit program," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(1-2), pages 107-138, October.
    3. Stephen A. Woodbury, 2002. "Income Replacement and Reemployment Programs in Michigan and Neighboring States," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 02-86, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • J65 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment Insurance; Severance Pay; Plant Closings

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