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Stabilization versus Insurance: Welfare Effects of Procyclical Taxation Under Incomplete Markets


  • James Costain

    () (Economics Universidad Carlos III de Madrid)

  • Michael Reiter


We construct and calibrate a general equilibrium business cycle model with unemployment and precautionary saving. We compute the cost of business cycles and locate the optimum in a set of simple cyclical fiscal policies. Our economy exhibits productivity shocks, giving firms an incentive to hire more when productivity is high. However, business cycles make workers' income riskier, both by increasing the unconditional probability of unusually long unemployment spells, and by making wages more variable, and therefore they decrease social welfare by around one-fourth or one-third of 1% of consumption. Optimal fiscal policy offsets the cycle, holding unemployment benefits constant but varying the tax rate procyclically to smooth hiring. By running a deficit of 4% to 5% of output in recessions, the government eliminates half the variation in the unemployment rate, most of the variation in workers'aggregate consumption, and most of the welfare cost of business cycles.
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Suggested Citation

  • James Costain & Michael Reiter, 2005. "Stabilization versus Insurance: Welfare Effects of Procyclical Taxation Under Incomplete Markets," 2005 Meeting Papers 704, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed005:704

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. tom krebs, 2004. "welfare cost of business cycles when markets are incomplete," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 283, Econometric Society.
    2. Gomes, Joao & Greenwood, Jeremy & Rebelo, Sergio, 2001. "Equilibrium unemployment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 109-152, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Leena Rudanko, 2011. "Aggregate and Idiosyncratic Risk in a Frictional Labor Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(6), pages 2823-2843, October.
    2. Alisdair McKay & Tamas Papp, 2011. "Accounting for Idiosyncratic Wage Risk Over the Business Cycle," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2011-028, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    3. Miguel Casares & Antonio Moreno & Jesús Vázquez, 2012. "Wage stickiness and unemployment fluctuations: an alternative approach," SERIEs: Journal of the Spanish Economic Association, Springer;Spanish Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 395-422, September.
    4. Per Krusell & Toshihiko Mukoyama & Ayşegül Şahin, 2010. "Labour-Market Matching with Precautionary Savings and Aggregate Fluctuations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 77(4), pages 1477-1507.
    5. repec:bof:bofrdp:urn:nbn:fi:bof-201510061415 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Mauro F Roca, 2009. "Search in the Labor Market under Imperfectly Insurable Income Risk," IMF Working Papers 09/188, International Monetary Fund.
    7. Andersen, Torben M. & Svarer, Michael, 2009. "Business cycle dependent unemployment insurance," Kiel Working Papers 1498, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    8. Singh, Aarti, 2010. "Human capital risk in life-cycle economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(6), pages 729-738, September.
    9. repec:eee:ecmode:v:67:y:2017:i:c:p:125-135 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Mark Strøm Kristoffersen, 2012. "Business Cycle Dependent Unemployment Benefits with Wealth Heterogeneity and Precautionary Savings," Economics Working Papers 2012-19, Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University.
    11. Eerola, Essi & Määttänen, Niku, 2013. "Matching in the housing market with risk aversion and savings," ETLA Working Papers 3, The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy.
    12. Philip Jung & Keith Kuester, 2008. "The (un)importance of unemployment fluctuations for welfare," Working Papers 08-31, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, revised 29 Apr 2009.
    13. Nils Gornemann & Keith Kuester & Makoto Nakajima, 2012. "Monetary policy with heterogeneous agents," Working Papers 12-21, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    14. Moyen, Stéphane & Stähler, Nikolai, 2014. "Unemployment Insurance And The Business Cycle: Should Benefit Entitlement Duration React To The Cycle?," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 18(03), pages 497-525, April.
    15. Eerola, Essi & Määttänen, Niku, 2015. "Matching and credit frictions in the housing market," Research Discussion Papers 20/2015, Bank of Finland.
    16. Moyen, Stéphane & Stähler, Nikolai, 2009. "Unemployment insurance and the business cycle: prolong benefit entitlements in bad times?," Discussion Paper Series 1: Economic Studies 2009,30, Deutsche Bundesbank.
    17. Carl Walsh, 2007. "Inflation Targeting and the Role of Real Objectives," Research and Policy Notes 2007/02, Czech National Bank, Research Department.
    18. Tom Krebs & Martin Scheffel, 2013. "Macroeconomic Evaluation of Labor Market Reform in Germany," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Monetary Fund, vol. 61(4), pages 664-701, December.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation

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