Essays on the optimal state and federal financing of public goods
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This dissertation contains three chapters in macroeconomics that study the financing and provision of unemployment insurance. The first chapter studies cross-sectional differences in U.S. state provision of unemployment insurance and the distortionary effects of federal unemployment benefit subsidies in a dynamic labor search model. The paper has two main findings. First, differences in the job-separation rate and the job-finding rate within the model can generate the negative correlation between the average benefit provided by a state and the state's unemployment rate, as observed in the data. Secondly, the model shows how the federal subsidization of unemployment benefit extensions in high-unemployment states causes an over-provision of the benefit, which in turn increases the unemployment rate in those states. Because the extensions are federally subsidized, however, the welfare loss due to the distortion is offset by the benefits of redistribution between states. The second chapter studies the optimal government monitoring of job search effort by unemployment insurance recipients. The theoretical model is a labor search economy with imperfectly observable search effort. The government observes a signal that is correlated with job search effort and must decide the threshold level of the signal that determines continued UI eligibility. The results of the numerical analysis show that the government increases this threshold level at each duration of the unemployment spell. Further, an increasing threshold profile can generate a sharp increase and subsequent drop-off in search effort near the expiration of benefits as observed in the data. The third chapter studies the optimal mix of distortionary capital and labor taxes in an altruistic economy. This problem is addressed by solving a dynamic general equilibrium model with production, in which finitely-lived individuals are linked inter-generationally through altruistic preferences. The government is tasked with financing an exogenous stream of government spending by levying distortionary capital and labor income taxes in a way that minimizes welfare loss in the economy. The numerical results show that nearly all government revenue should be raised through the labor income tax.