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Should Unemployment Insurance Vary with the Unemployment Rate? Theory and Evidence

  • Kroft, Kory
  • Notowidigdo, Matthew J.

We study how optimal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits vary over the business cycle by estimating how the moral hazard cost and the consumption smoothing benefit of UI vary with the unemployment rate. We find that the moral hazard cost is procyclical, greater when the unemployment rate is relatively low. By contrast, our evidence suggests that the consumption smoothing benefit of UI is acyclical. Using these estimates to calibrate our job search model, we find that a one standard deviation increase in the unemployment rate leads to a roughly 14 to 27 percentage point increase in the optimal wage replacement rate. We also conduct a model-based estimation of the structural parameters of the model, and we find that virtually all of the cyclical variation in the moral hazard cost and consumption smoothing benefit of UI is due to variation in the responsiveness of search effort as opposed to reservation wages.

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File URL: http://www.clsrn.econ.ubc.ca/workingpapers/CLSRN%20Working%20Paper%20no.%20104%20-%20Kroft%20and%20Notowidigdo.pdf
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Paper provided by Vancouver School of Economics in its series CLSSRN working papers with number clsrn_admin-2012-26.

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Length: 55 pages
Date of creation: 29 Oct 2012
Date of revision: 29 Oct 2012
Publication status: Forthcoming in Canadian Labour Market and Skills Researcher Network (CLSRN) Working Paper Series
Handle: RePEc:ubc:clssrn:clsrn_admin-2012-26
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.clsrn.econ.ubc.ca/

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  1. Martin Browning & Thomas Crossley, . "Unemployment Insurance Benefit Levels and Consumption Changes," Canadian International Labour Network Working Papers 25, McMaster University.
  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. Torben M. Andersen & Michael Svarer, 2010. "Business Cycle Dependent Unemployment Insurance," Economics Working Papers 2010-16, School of Economics and Management, University of Aarhus.
  4. Pascal Michaillat & Emmanuel Saez & Camille Landais, 2011. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance over the Business Cycle," 2011 Meeting Papers 124, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Meyer, Bruce D, 1990. "Unemployment Insurance and Unemployment Spells," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(4), pages 757-82, July.
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  8. Raj Chetty, 2009. "Sufficient Statistics for Welfare Analysis: A Bridge Between Structural and Reduced-Form Methods," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 451-488, 05.
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  10. David Card & Raj Chetty & Andrea Weber, 2006. "Cash-on-Hand and Competing Models of Intertemporal Behavior: New Evidence from the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 12639, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  12. Moffitt, Robert, 1985. "Unemployment insurance and the distribution of unemployment spells," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 85-101, April.
  13. Torben M. Andersen & Michael Svarer, 2011. "State Dependent Unemployment Benefits," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 78(2), pages 325-344, 06.
  14. Johannes F. Schmieder & Till M. von Wachter & Stefan Bender, 2012. "The Effects of Extended Unemployment Insurance over the Business Cycle: Evidence from Regression Discontinuity Estimates Over Twenty Years," NBER Working Papers 17813, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Dale T. Mortensen, 1977. "Unemployment insurance and job search decisions," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 30(4), pages 505-517, July.
  16. Andreas Mueller, 2014. "Separations, Sorting and Cyclical Unemployment," 2014 Meeting Papers 404, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  17. Marianne Bertrand, 2004. "From the Invisible Handshake to the Invisible Hand? How Import Competition Changes the Employment Relationship," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(4), pages 723-766, October.
  18. Kiley Michael T., 2003. "How Should Unemployment Benefits Respond to the Business Cycle?," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 3(1), pages 1-22, July.
  19. Rasmus Lentz, 2009. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance in an Estimated Job Search Model with Savings," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 12(1), pages 37-57, January.
  20. Hopenhayn, Hugo A & Nicolini, Juan Pablo, 1997. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(2), pages 412-38, April.
  21. Currie, Janet & Gruber, Jonathan, 1996. "Saving Babies: The Efficacy and Cost of Recent Changes in the Medicaid Eligibility of Pregnant Women," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(6), pages 1263-96, December.
  22. Feldstein, Martin & Poterba, James, 1984. "Unemployment insurance and reservation wages," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(1-2), pages 141-167.
  23. David H. Autor & Mark G. Duggan, 2003. "The Rise In The Disability Rolls And The Decline In Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 157-205, February.
  24. Chetty, Raj, 2006. "A general formula for the optimal level of social insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(10-11), pages 1879-1901, November.
  25. Timothy J. Bartik, 1991. "Who Benefits from State and Local Economic Development Policies?," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number wbsle, June.
  26. Baily, Martin Neil, 1978. "Some aspects of optimal unemployment insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 379-402, December.
  27. Timothy J. Bartik, 2003. "Local Economic Development Policies," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 03-91, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
  28. Mark A. Aguiar & Erik Hurst & Loukas Karabarbounis, 2011. "Time Use During Recessions," NBER Working Papers 17259, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  29. Kroft, Kory, 2008. "Takeup, social multipliers and optimal social insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 722-737, April.
  30. Edgerton, Jesse, 2010. "Investment incentives and corporate tax asymmetries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 936-952, December.
  31. Camille Landais & Pascal Michaillat & Emmanuel Saez, 2010. "A Macroeconomic Theory of Optimal Unemployment Insurance," NBER Working Papers 16526, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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