IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

On the Optimal Size of Public Employment

  • Eduardo Zilberman


  • Anna Dos Reis


A public job can be seen as a source of insurance against income risk. Indeed, many public employees have job stability, which is compounded with a less volatile and more compressed wage distribution. Hence, by increasing its number of public employees, the government enhances the overall degree of insurance in the economy. In this paper, we introduce public employment in a standard incomplete markets model with overlapping generations. The aim is to explore the welfare gains or losses due to a larger government, accounting for this extra source of insurance. In a model economy calibrated to Brazil, we find that if the government relies on consumption taxes to balance its budget, the optimal size of public employment is nearly flat, ranging from 10 to 24 percent of the workforce. However, if the public employment is reduced from 22 to 10 percent, welfare losses due to a reduction in the degree of insurance are 4.5 percent, which are compensated by welfare gains due to level and inequality effects. Finally, if the wage distribution becomes even less volatile and more compressed, social welfare decreases.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2013 Meeting Papers with number 482.

in new window

Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:red:sed013:482
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:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Berriel, Tiago Couto & Zilberman, Eduardo, 2011. "Targeting the Poor: A Macroeconomic Analysis of Cash Transfer Programs," Economics Working Papers (Ensaios Economicos da EPGE) 726, FGV/EPGE Escola Brasileira de Economia e Finanças, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil).
  2. Holtz-Eakin, Douglas, 1994. "Public-Sector Capital and the Productivity Puzzle," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 76(1), pages 12-21, February.
  3. Gerhard Glomm & Juergen Jung & Chung Tran, 2006. "Macroeconomic Implications of Early Retirement in the Public Sector: The Case of Brazil," Caepr Working Papers 2006-008, Center for Applied Economics and Policy Research, Economics Department, Indiana University Bloomington.
  4. Eric French, 2004. "The Effects of Health, Wealth and Wages on Labor Supply and Retirement Behavior," 2004 Meeting Papers 96, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Gary D. Hansen & Ayse Imrohoroglu, 1990. "The Role of Unemployment Insurance in an Economy with Liquidity Constraints and Moral Hazard," UCLA Economics Working Papers 583, UCLA Department of Economics.
  6. Vincenzo Quadrini & Antonella Trigari, 2008. "Public Employment and the Business Cycle," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 109(4), pages 723-742, 03.
  7. Juan C. Conesa & Dirk Krueger, 2004. "Taxing Capital: Not a Bad Idea After All," 2004 Meeting Papers 403, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  8. Rodrik, Dani, 1996. "Why do More Open Economies Have Bigger Governments?," CEPR Discussion Papers 1388, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Jonathan Heathcote & Kjetil Storesletten & Giovanni L. Violante, 2009. "Quantitative macroeconomics with heterogeneous households," Staff Report 420, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  10. Gregory, Robert G. & Borland, Jeff, 1999. "Recent developments in public sector labor markets," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 53, pages 3573-3630 Elsevier.
  11. Jetter, Michael & Nikolsko-Rzhevskyy, Alex & Smith, William T., 2013. "The effects of wage volatility on growth," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 93-109.
  12. Jorge Alonso-Ortiz & Richard Rogerson, 2010. "Taxes, transfers, and employment in an incomplete markets model," FRB Atlanta CQER Working Paper 2010-07, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  13. Lynde, Catherine & Richmond, J, 1993. "Public Capital and Total Factor Productivity," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 34(2), pages 401-14, May.
  14. Hugett, M. & Ventura, G., 1997. "On the Distributional Effects of Social Security Reform," UWO Department of Economics Working Papers 9710, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
  15. Evi Pappa, 2009. "The Effects Of Fiscal Shocks On Employment And The Real Wage," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 50(1), pages 217-244, 02.
  16. S. Rao Aiyagari & Ellen R. McGrattan, 1997. "The optimum quantity of debt," Staff Report 203, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  17. Pedro Cavalcanti Ferreira & Marcelo Rodrigues dos Santos, 2013. "The Effect of Social Security, Health, Demography and Technology on Retirement," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 16(2), pages 350-370, April.
  18. Rodrik, Dani, 2000. "What Drives Public Employment in Developing Countries?," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 4(3), pages 229-43, October.
  19. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1993. "Uninsured idiosyncratic risk and aggregate saving," Working Papers 502, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  20. Juan C. Conesa & Dirk Krueger, 1999. "Social Security Reform with Heterogeneous Agents," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 2(4), pages 757-795, October.
  21. Shinichi Nishiyama & Kent Smetters, 2005. "Consumption Taxes and Economic Efficiency with Idiosyncratic Wage Shocks," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(5), pages 1088-1115, October.
  22. Fatih Guvenen, 2011. "Macroeconomics With Heterogeneity: A Practical Guide," NBER Working Papers 17622, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Finn, Mary G, 1998. "Cyclical Effects of Government's Employment and Goods Purchases," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 39(3), pages 635-57, August.
  24. David Domeij & Jonathan Heathcote, 2004. "On The Distributional Effects Of Reducing Capital Taxes," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(2), pages 523-554, 05.
  25. Huggett, Mark, 1996. "Wealth distribution in life-cycle economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 469-494, December.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:red:sed013:482. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Christian Zimmermann)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.