The myth of the unemployed freeloader

More cracks in the stereotypical view of poor people as freeloaders: it turns out unemployment benefits don’t diminish a person’s motivation to find work. Just the opposite, in fact.

In a post on BillMoyers.com, Joshua Holland shared the findings from a multinational study by Jan Eichhorn, a sociologist at the University of Edinburgh. The study was published in the October issue of Social Indicators Research.

The key finding was that the generosity of unemployment benefits had no effect at all on people’s drive to go out and try to find a job. “This means that claims about unemployment benefits resulting in complacent unemployed people who chose the situation and would be satisfied with it cannot be retained uncritically,” [Eichhorn] wrote.

This confirms similar findings from a 2011 study by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, which found that people who qualify for unemployment benefits actually spend more time looking for jobs than those who don’t quality.

In short, when society gives its most vulnerable members a hand up, they are more likely to demonstrate a strong work ethic, not less.

2 thoughts on “The myth of the unemployed freeloader

  1. Glad you found the studies, Ben.

    Tim

    P.S. Now I’m waiting for the anecdotes that will be touted as evidence to the contrary. Call me a cynic.

  2. New study show you were incorrect. According to a recent study unemployment is 3.6 percentage points higher because of extended benefits. Marcus Hagedorn of the University of Oslo, Fatih Karahan of the University of Pennsylvania, and Iourii Manovskii and Kurt Mitman of the New York Fed, distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). The study’s finding: “Most of the persistent increase in unemployment during the Great Recession can be accounted for by the unprecedented extensions of unemployment benefit eligibility.”

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