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Optimal Unemployment Insurance and Cyclical Fluctuations

Author

Listed:
  • Noah Williams

    (University of Wisconsin)

  • Rui Li

    (University of Massachusetts Boston)

Abstract

In this paper, we investigate the design of optimal unemployment insurance in an environment with moral hazard and cyclical fluctuations. The optimal unemployment insurance contract balances the insurance motive to provide consumption for the unemployed with the provision of incentives to search for a job. This balance is affected by aggregate conditions, as recessions are characterized by reductions in job finding rates. We show how benefits should vary with aggregate conditions in an optimal contract. In a special case of the model, the optimal contract can be solved in closed form. We show how this contract can be implemented in a rather simple way: by allowing unemployed workers to borrow and save in a risk-free bond, providing flow payments which are constant over an unemployment spell but vary with the aggregate state, and giving additional lump sum payments (or charges) upon finding a job or when the aggregate state switches. We then consider a calibrated version of the model and study the quantitative impact of changing from the current unemployment system to the optimal one. In a recession, the optimal system reduces unemployment rates by roughly 2.5 percentage points and shortens the duration of unemployment by roughly 50%.

Suggested Citation

  • Noah Williams & Rui Li, 2014. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance and Cyclical Fluctuations," 2014 Meeting Papers 804, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed014:804
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Landais, Camille & Michaillat, Pascal & Saez, Emmanuel, 2010. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance over the Business Cycle," CEPR Discussion Papers 8132, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    3. Tomasz Piskorski & Alexei Tchistyi, 2011. "Stochastic House Appreciation and Optimal Mortgage Lending," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 24(5), pages 1407-1446.
    4. Kory Kroft & Matthew J. Notowidigdo, 2016. "Should Unemployment Insurance Vary with the Unemployment Rate? Theory and Evidence," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(3), pages 1092-1124.
    5. Robert Shimer, 2012. "Reassessing the Ins and Outs of Unemployment," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 15(2), pages 127-148, April.
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    10. Raj Chetty, 2008. "Erratum: Moral Hazard versus Liquidity and Optimal Unemployment Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(6), pages 1197-1197, December.
    11. Meyer, Bruce D, 1990. "Unemployment Insurance and Unemployment Spells," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(4), pages 757-782, July.
    12. Shavell, Steven & Weiss, Laurence, 1979. "The Optimal Payment of Unemployment Insurance Benefits over Time," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1347-1362, December.
    13. Zhiguo He, 2012. "Dynamic Compensation Contracts with Private Savings," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 25(5), pages 1494-1549.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles

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