Upjohn Institute Working Paper No. 97-47

**Published Version**

In Advisory Council on Unemployment Compensation: Background Papers, Washington, D.C.: The Council, 1995-1996, v.3, pp. [CC1]-CC71. Under title Further Aspects of Optimal Unemployment Insurance
In Search Theory and Unemployment, Stephen A. Woodbury and Carl Davidson, editors. Boston, Mass.: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002, pp. [177]-213. Under title Optimal Unemployment Insurance with Risk Aversion and Job Destruction




This paper extends earlier research on optimal unemployment insurance (UI) by developing an equilibrium search model that encompasses simultaneously several theoretical and institutional features that have been treated one-by-one (or not at all) in previous discussions of optimal UI. In particular, the model we develop allows us to determine the optimal potential duration of UI benefits as well as the optimal UI benefit amount; assumes (realistically) that not all workers are eligible for UI benefits; allows examination of various degrees of risk aversion by workers; models labor demand so that the job destruction effects of UI are taken into account; and treats workers as heterogeneous. The model suggests that the current statutory replacement rate of 50 percent provided by most states in the United States is close to optimal, but that the current potential duration of benefits (which is usually 26 weeks) is probably too short. This basic result--that the optimal UI system is characterized by a fairly low replacement rate and a long potential duration--conflicts with most of the existing literature on optimal UI. We argue, however, that the result is consistent with a large literature on optimal insurance contracts in the presence of moral hazard.

Issue Date

January 1997, Revised February 1998


Revised version of: Further Aspects of Optimal Unemployment Insurance, December 1995, prepared for the Advisory Council on Unemployment Compensation under the U.S. Department of Labor Purchase Order No. M-5111-5-00-97-40

Subject Areas

UNEMPLOYMENT, DISABILITY, and INCOME SUPPORT PROGRAMS; Unemployment insurance; Benefits and duration




Davidson, Carl, and Stephen A. Woodbury. 1998. "The Optimal Dole with Risk Aversion and Job Destruction." Upjohn Institute Working Paper No. 97-47. Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.