Unemployment insurance: an analysis of optimal mechanisms under aggregate shocks

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Moreira, Humberto Ataíde
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The purpose of this work is to provide a brief overview of the literature on the optimal design of unemployment insurance systems by analyzing some of the most influential articles published over the last three decades on the subject and extend the main results to a multiple aggregate shocks environment. The properties of optimal contracts are discussed in light of the key assumptions commonly made in theoretical publications on the area. Moreover, the implications of relaxing each of these hypothesis is reckoned as well. The analysis of models of only one unemployment spell starts from the seminal work of Shavell and Weiss (1979). In a simple and common setting, unemployment benefits policies, wage taxes and search effort assignments are covered. Further, the idea that the UI distortion of the relative price of leisure and consumption is the only explanation for the marginal incentives to search for a job is discussed, putting into question the reduction in labor supply caused by social insurance, usually interpreted as solely an evidence of a dynamic moral hazard caused by a substitution effect. In addition, the paper presents one characterization of optimal unemployment insurance contracts in environments in which workers experience multiple unemployment spells. Finally, an extension to multiple aggregate shocks environment is considered. The paper ends with a numerical analysis of the implications of i.i.d. shocks to the optimal unemployment insurance mechanism.

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