Welfare state and social Europe

Thomas Le Barbanchon, Roland Rathelot, Alexandra Roulet, 27 June 2017

The generosity of unemployment insurance can influence the time and energy job seekers dedicate to searching for a job, as well as the jobs they are willing to accept. Yet we know little about how unemployment insurance affects the reservation wages of the unemployed. Using new French data, this column shows that increasing unemployment generosity does not affect the reservation wages or the ‘pickiness’ of job seekers.

Alberto Alesina, Stefanie Stantcheva, Edoardo Teso, 21 June 2017

Americans are generally thought to view the economic system as fair and see wealth as a reward for ability and effort, while Europeans tend to believe that the economic system is unfair, and that wealth is the result of circumstances. This column tests this using new evidence on beliefs about intergenerational mobility in four European countries and the US, and confirms that Europeans do indeed tend to be overly pessimistic about moving up the social ladder compared to reality, while Americans are overly optimistic. These perceptions have important implications for how redistribution and equal opportunity policies will be received.

Nezih Guner, Remzi Kaygusuz, Gustavo Ventura, 10 June 2017

Childcare subsidy provision in the US remains substantially lower than in many other developed economies. This column compares the potential effects of expanding three existing subsidy programmes in the US. It also argues, however, that amassing majority support for the expansion of any of the programmes would be difficult given the relatively few number of households the transfers benefit. 

Johanna Wallenius, Max Groneck, 01 June 2017

At the individual level, social security is a strong source of redistribution from rich to the poor in the US, due to the concavity of the pension formula. But this column argues that spousal and survivor benefits, which are important sources of retirement income for women, introduce regressive redistributive elements to social security and also provide incentives for even highly educated women to stay at home if they are married to a high earner. A means-tested minimum benefit would simultaneously increase overall labour supply and reduce inequality, compared to the current system.

Roger Douglas, Robert MacCulloch, 25 May 2017

The future of publicly funded welfare states is in doubt as costs trend upward, yet there is little agreement about the shape of the necessary reforms. This column uses the case of New Zealand to show how tax cuts can be designed to establish compulsory savings accounts so that a publicly funded welfare system can be changed into one that relies largely on private funding. Transparent pricing of services can be introduced, offering the potential for efficiency gains. The government retains sufficient revenues to act as ‘insurer of last resort’ for those individuals unable to meet welfare expenses out of their savings accounts.

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