Does the Unemployment Benefit Institution Affect the Productivity of Workers? Evidence from the Field

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Abstract

This paper studies the effects of unemployment benefit schemes on individual productivity. We created employment and unemployment in the field and compared workers’ productivity under no unemployment benefits to productivity under two different unemployment schemes. In one scheme, the unemployed received an unconditional monetary transfer. In the other, the monetary transfer was obtained conditional on the unemployed spending some time on an ancillary activity. Our results challenge the standard economic theory prediction that unemployment benefits, especially unconditional compensations, hinder workers’ effort. We find that workers employed under the unconditional scheme are more productive than workers under the conditional one, and both schemes make workers more productive than having no unemployment benefit. We discuss two possible explanations for our results based on reciprocity and differential psychological costs of unemployment across unemployment benefit schemes.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1 - 18
JournalManagement Science
DOIs
StatePublished - 2016

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Unemployment benefits
Productivity
Workers
Unemployment
Workers' compensation
Costs
Psychological
Prediction
Economic theory

Cite this

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title = "Does the Unemployment Benefit Institution Affect the Productivity of Workers? Evidence from the Field",
abstract = "This paper studies the effects of unemployment benefit schemes on individual productivity. We created employment and unemployment in the field and compared workers’ productivity under no unemployment benefits to productivity under two different unemployment schemes. In one scheme, the unemployed received an unconditional monetary transfer. In the other, the monetary transfer was obtained conditional on the unemployed spending some time on an ancillary activity. Our results challenge the standard economic theory prediction that unemployment benefits, especially unconditional compensations, hinder workers’ effort. We find that workers employed under the unconditional scheme are more productive than workers under the conditional one, and both schemes make workers more productive than having no unemployment benefit. We discuss two possible explanations for our results based on reciprocity and differential psychological costs of unemployment across unemployment benefit schemes.",
author = "{Vargas Duque}, {Juan Fernando} and Mariana Blanco and Dalton, {Patricio S.}",
year = "2016",
doi = "10.1287/mnsc.2016.2511",
language = "English (US)",
pages = "1 -- 18",
journal = "Management Science",
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N2 - This paper studies the effects of unemployment benefit schemes on individual productivity. We created employment and unemployment in the field and compared workers’ productivity under no unemployment benefits to productivity under two different unemployment schemes. In one scheme, the unemployed received an unconditional monetary transfer. In the other, the monetary transfer was obtained conditional on the unemployed spending some time on an ancillary activity. Our results challenge the standard economic theory prediction that unemployment benefits, especially unconditional compensations, hinder workers’ effort. We find that workers employed under the unconditional scheme are more productive than workers under the conditional one, and both schemes make workers more productive than having no unemployment benefit. We discuss two possible explanations for our results based on reciprocity and differential psychological costs of unemployment across unemployment benefit schemes.

AB - This paper studies the effects of unemployment benefit schemes on individual productivity. We created employment and unemployment in the field and compared workers’ productivity under no unemployment benefits to productivity under two different unemployment schemes. In one scheme, the unemployed received an unconditional monetary transfer. In the other, the monetary transfer was obtained conditional on the unemployed spending some time on an ancillary activity. Our results challenge the standard economic theory prediction that unemployment benefits, especially unconditional compensations, hinder workers’ effort. We find that workers employed under the unconditional scheme are more productive than workers under the conditional one, and both schemes make workers more productive than having no unemployment benefit. We discuss two possible explanations for our results based on reciprocity and differential psychological costs of unemployment across unemployment benefit schemes.

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