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Should unemployment insurance be asset-tested?

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  • Koehne, Sebastian
  • Kuhn, Moritz

Abstract

Empirical studies show that job search behavior depends on the financial situation of the unemployed. Starting from this observation, we ask how unemployment insurance policy should take the individual financial situation into account. We use a quantitative model with a realistically calibrated unemployment insurance system, individual consumption-saving decision and moral hazard during job search to answer this question and find that the optimal policy provides unemployment benefits that increase with individual assets. By implicitly raising interest rates, asset-increasing benefits encourage self-insurance, which facilitates consumption smoothing during unemployment, but does not exacerbate moral hazard for job search. Asset-increasing benefits also have desirable properties from a dynamic perspective, because they emulate key features of the dynamics of constrained efficient allocations. The welfare gain from introducing asset-increasing benefits is substantial and amounts to 1.5 % of consumption when comparing steady states and 0.8 % of consumption when taking transition costs into account. More generous replacement rates or benefits targeted to asset-poor households, by contrast, have a negative effect on welfare.

Suggested Citation

  • Koehne, Sebastian & Kuhn, Moritz, 2012. "Should unemployment insurance be asset-tested?," VfS Annual Conference 2012 (Goettingen): New Approaches and Challenges for the Labor Market of the 21st Century 66056, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:vfsc12:66056
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    1. Unemployment insurance only for the rich
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2012-03-15 20:20:00

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    Cited by:

    1. Claudio Michelacci & Hernán Ruffo, 2015. "Optimal Life Cycle Unemployment Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(2), pages 816-859, February.
    2. Felix Wellschmied, 2021. "The welfare effects of asset mean‐testing income support," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 12(1), pages 217-249, January.
    3. Serdar Birinci & Kurt Gerrard See, 2018. "How Should Unemployment Insurance vary over the Business Cycle?," 2018 Meeting Papers 69, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    4. Wang, Cheng & Williamson, Stephen D., 2002. "Moral hazard, optimal unemployment insurance, and experience rating," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(7), pages 1337-1371, October.
    5. Swapnil Singh, 2018. "Public insurance of married versus single households in the US: trends and welfare consequences," Bank of Lithuania Working Paper Series 54, Bank of Lithuania.
    6. J. Carter Braxton & Gordon Phillips & Kyle Herkenhoff, 2018. "Can the Unemployed Borrow? Implications for Public Insurance," 2018 Meeting Papers 564, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    7. Serdar Birinci & Kurt See, 2019. "Labor Market Responses to Unemployment Insurance: The Role of Heterogeneity," Working Papers 2019-022, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, revised Nov 2021.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • J65 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment Insurance; Severance Pay; Plant Closings

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