The Wealth of the Unemployed: Adequacy and Implications for Unemployment Insurance
While there has been considerable discussion of the adequacy of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits as a form of income replacement, there is little evidence on the other resources that the unemployed have to finance their unemployment spells. In this paper I focus on focus on one form of resources, own wealth holdings. I find that the median worker has financial assets sufficient to finance roughly two-thirds of the income loss from an unemployment spell, but that there is tremendous heterogeneity in wealth holdings; almost one-third of workers can't even replace 10% of their income loss. Most strikingly, ex-ante wealth holdings decline precipitously with realized unemployment durations, both absolutely and (especially) relative to ex-post income loss, suggesting that adequacy could be increased if UI benefits were targeted to those with longer spells. I also find strong evidence that individuals who are eligible for more generous UI draw down their wealth more slowly during unemployment spells. This demonstrates that wealth is used as a consumption smoothing device alongside UI to cope with the income loss from unemployment.
Jonathan Gruber, 2001. "The Wealth of the unemployed," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, ILR School, Cornell University, vol. 55(1), pages 79-94, October.