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Lessons from the US unemployment insurance experiments (Meyer 1995)

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Meyer, B. (1995). Lessons from the US unemployment insurance experiments. Journal of Economic Literature, 33(1), 91-131.


    • The article provided an overview of experimental evaluations of unemployment insurance (UI) reforms conducted from 1977 to 1992 in the United States. These reforms typically tried to improve the employment prospects of beneficiaries and reduce UI costs.
    • The author reviewed 10 randomized controlled trials of UI reforms—4 cash bonus experiments and 6 job-search experiments—and provided a comparative analysis on how these reforms affected average weeks of UI benefits paid, UI program costs, and recipients’ earnings, when available. The cash bonus experiments offered a cash payment to participants who quickly found and kept a job for an indicated length of time, although the details varied greatly across experiments. Job-search assistance reforms also varied but typically involved changes in the way job-search programs were implemented in terms of services offered and reporting and participation requirements.
    • The review found that some cash bonus reforms reduced the average number of weeks participants spent on UI by a statistically significant margin, compared with the control group. The review also found that some job-search assistance reforms reduced participants’ average number of weeks on UI and increased average quarterly earnings compared with the control group; however, not all findings for all reforms were statistically significant.

Reviewed by CLEAR

April 2016

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