Unemployment Insurance Eligibility and “At-Fault” Job Loss: Implications for Recipiency, Unemployment Duration, and Earnings

Publication Date


Grant Type

Early Career Research Award


Unemployment insurance (UI) benefits are available only to claimants who are not “at-fault” for their job loss. In the US, states define separation-based eligibility criteria that are used by caseworkers to determine eligibility among claimants who quit or were fired. We study the implications of these eligibility criteria using administrative data from California. First, we provide a uniquely comprehensive assessment of the number and characteristics of affected claimants. Second, exploiting quasi-random assignment of claims to groups of caseworkers and idiosyncratic variation across caseworkers in their tendency to deem a claimant ineligible, we estimate the causal effect of denial on unemployment duration and reemployment earnings. Our work will inform policymakers of the effects of altering separation-based eligibility criteria.