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Pro-cyclical Unemployment Benefits? Optimal Policy in an Equilibrium Business Cycle Model

Listed author(s):
  • Stanislav Rabinovich

    (University of Pennsylvania)

  • Kurt Mitman

    (University of Pennsylvania)

We study the optimal provision of unemployment insurance (UI) over the business cycle. We consider an equilibrium Mortensen-Pissarides search and matching model with risk-averse workers and aggregate shocks to labor productivity. Both the vacancy creation decisions of firms and the search effort decisions of workers respond endogenously to aggregate shocks as well as to changes in UI policy. We characterize the optimal history-dependent UI policy. We find that, all else equal, the optimal benefit is decreasing in current productivity and decreasing in current unemployment. Optimal benefits are therefore lowest when current productivity is high and current unemployment is high. The optimal path of benefits reacts non-monotonically to a productivity shock. Following a drop in productivity, benefits initially rise in order to provide short-run relief to the unemployed and stabilize wages, but then fall significantly below their pre-recession level, in order to speed up the subsequent recovery. Under the optimal policy, the path of benefits is pro-cyclical overall. As compared to the existing US UI system, the optimal history-dependent benefits smooth cyclical fluctuations in unemployment and deliver non-negligible welfare gains.

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File URL: https://economicdynamics.org/meetpapers/2011/paper_1247.pdf
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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2011 Meeting Papers with number 1247.

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Date of creation: 2011
Handle: RePEc:red:sed011:1247
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Society for Economic Dynamics Marina Azzimonti Department of Economics Stonybrook University 10 Nicolls Road Stonybrook NY 11790 USA

Web page: http://www.EconomicDynamics.org/
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  19. Cahuc, Pierre & Lehmann, Etienne, 2000. "Should unemployment benefits decrease with the unemployment spell?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 135-153, July.
  20. Hopenhayn, H. & Nicolini, P.J., 1996. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance," RCER Working Papers 421, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  21. Fishe, Raymond P H, 1982. "Unemployment Insurance and the Reservation Wage of the Unemployed," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 64(1), pages 12-17, February.
  22. Simon Burgess & Helene Turon, 2005. "The Cyclical Behavior of Equilibrium Unemployment and Vacancies – A Comment," Bristol Economics Discussion Papers 05/573, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
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