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The Value of Unemployment Insurance: Liquidity vs. Insurance Value

This paper argues that the value of unemployment insurance (UI) can be decomposed into a liquidity component and an insurance component. While the liquidity component captures the value of relieving the cost to access liquidity during unemployment, the insurance component captures the value of protecting the worker against a potential permanent future income loss. We develop a novel sufficient statistics method to identify each component that requires only the labor supply responses to changes in the potential duration of UI and severance payment and implement it using Spanish administrative data. We find that the liquidity component represents half of the value of UI, while the insurance component captures the remaining half. However, the relevance of each component is highly heterogeneous across different groups of workers. Poorer and wealthier workers are both similarly liquidity-constrained, but poorer workers place a higher value on UI because the insurance component is significantly more important for them. On the other hand, wealthier workers and workers with more cash-on-hand value additional UI equally, but the wealthier value its liquidity, while those with more liquidity care about its insurance value. Finally, from a welfare perspective, we show that extending the potential duration of Spain’s UI would increase welfare. However, in our counterfactual case where UI is complemented with the provision of liquidity, the optimal potential duration of Spain's UI should be lower than its current level.

Keywords: Unemployment Insurance, Liquidity Constraints, Consumption Smoothing
JEL codes: H20; J64; J65.

Suggested citation: Hernandez Martinez, Victor, and Kaixin Liu. 2022. "The Value of Unemployment Insurance: Liquidity vs. Insurance Value." Working Paper No. 22-16. Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

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