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Running Out of Time: Limited Unemployment Benefits and Reservation Wages

Serife Nuray Akin and Brennan C. Platt

Review of Economic Dynamics, 2012, vol. 15, issue 2, pages 149-170

Abstract: We study unemployment insurance (UI) in an equilibrium environment in which unemployed workers only receive benefits for a finite length of time. Although all workers have identical productivity and leisure value, the random arrival of job offers creates ex-post differences with respect to their time remaining until benefit expiration. Firms, which are also homogeneous, can exploit these differences, leading to an endogenous wage distribution. This allows us to examine the equilibrium effect of policy changes in both the size and length of UI benefits. Surprisingly, an increase in benefits can actually cause wages to fall, which is contrary to the predictions of on-the-job-search models. Moreover, we explain well-documented patterns of how the hazard rate of exiting unemployment responds to these policy changes. Our theory also explains why this hazard rate jumps at the time of benefit exhaustion. (Copyright: Elsevier)

Keywords: Unemployment benefits; Potential benefit duration; Wage dispersion; Equilibrium s\ earch; Hazard rates (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J64 J65 D5 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2012
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