Understanding Differences in Unemployment Insurance Receipt Rates and Benefit Amounts Across Different Groups

Who Receives Unemployment Insurance?
July 6, 1905
Chan M., Michaelides, M. & Zhang S.
Research in Applied Economics
Workforce Development
Chan, M., Michaelides, M. & Zhang, S. (2014). Who Receives Unemployment Insurance? Research in Applied Economics, 6(3), 98-128.

There is little research analyzing recent patterns in receipt of Unemployment Insurance (UI) and how these patterns differ across socioeconomic characteristics such as gender, race, education, age, industry, and occupation. Nor is there research examining differences in receipt of UI and benefits amounts collected among socioeconomic groups. To further understanding of UI patterns, Marios Michaelides co-authored a paper examining UI receipt rates for recently unemployed individuals.

Specifically, researchers examined differences in these receipt rates across socioeconomic characteristics, as well as benefits per recipient (average benefit amount for the population of new UI recipients) and benefits per new job loser (average benefits collected per newly unemployed individual). This study drew data from the UI administrative data of 4 states and Current Population Survey (CPS) data from 2003.

Results show that just a third of recent unemployed individuals in Minnesota and Oregon, and just over half in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, began collecting UI benefits after losing their jobs. In all states except Oregon, recently unemployed men were more likely than women to begin collecting UI benefits. In fact, results show that women, nonwhites, young adults, and workers with no high school diploma are much less likely than the average worker to begin collecting UI benefits after losing their jobs. Researchers suggest that individuals in these groups are less likely to apply for UI benefits. Individuals from these groups are also less likely to qualify for UI benefits, due to a lack of knowledge about the UI program or because they worked part-time jobs or jobs that were not covered by UI. In addition, women, youth, blue collar workers, and workers with no college education have lower entitlements within the UI program, suggesting that many of them hold low-wage jobs or jobs offering fewer hours.

The findings of this study raise important questions about the scope of the UI program and whether the benefit levels adequately help groups maintain an acceptable standard of living after losing their jobs. The authors conclude that raising awareness of the UI program, as well as improving coverage of part-time workers through modified eligibility rules, would improve UI participation by certain groups of workers.