By Andrii Parkhomenko
The unemployment insurance system in the U.S. does not provide incentives to look for jobs outside local labor markets. In this paper I introduce relocation subsidies as a supplement to unemployment benefits, and study their effects on unemployment, productivity and welfare. I build a job search model with heterogeneous workers and multiple locations, in which migration is impeded by moving expenses, cross-location search frictions, borrowing constraints, and utility costs. I calibrate the model to the U.S. economy, and then introduce a subsidy that reimburses a part of the moving expenses to the unemployed and is financed by labor income taxes. During the Great Recession, a relocation subsidy that pays half of the moving expenses would lower unemployment rate by 0.36 percentage points (or 4.8%) and increase productivity by 1%. Importantly, the subsidies cost nothing to the taxpayer: the additional spending on the subsidies is offset by the reduction in spending on unemployment benefits. Unemployment insurance which combines unemployment benefits with relocation subsidies appears to be more effective than the insurance based on the benefits only.
I have followed and tried to contribute to the optimal unemployment insurance literature. It surprises me that no one, including myself, has looked at relocation subsidies. It seems like an obvious solution to spatial mismatch. Yes, some fiscal systems allow you to deduct moving expenses, but this is not tied to unemployment insurance benefits.