The Economics of Social Protection
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The Economics of Social Protection

Lars Söderström

This book focuses on arrangements for redistributing consumption opportunities over the life cycle and for providing compensation for income losses or large expenditures due to reasons such as illness and unemployment. After extensive coverage of the nature of inequalities in income and wealth in a market economy, and various notions of social justice, the author discusses public and private transfers in cash or in kind related to old age, childhood, illness and the like. Importantly, the book takes into account both equity and efficiency aspects.
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Chapter 7: Income Security

Lars Söderström


We now take a closer look at the risk of losing one’s income before retirement, either temporarily or permanently, the most common reasons being illness and unemployment. We begin with some general comments on income insurance and then turn to unemployment insurance, sickness insurance, and disability insurance. INSURANCE: THEORETICAL BACKGROUND Income security is a classical topic in the economics of insurance. Modern utility theory started with Daniel Bernoulli’s claim, in 1738, that an individual’s utility from income, u(Y), is increasing but at a decreasing rate, uЈ(Y)Ͼ 0, uЉ(Y)Ͻ0. He used this postulate to explain the demand for insurance in a model where individuals were supposed to maximize expected utility, Eu(Y). This approach was advanced in 1944 when John von Neumann and Oscar Morgenstern developed a method to measure utility as a function of income/wealth. This was done in the following way: 1. 2. 3. Define a relevant interval for income/wealth. Assign particular values to the endpoints of the interval, for example u(Y min)ϭ0 and u(Y max)ϭ50. In order to evaluate an intermediate point, say Y ϭY*, ask the individual whether he or she prefers this income with certainty to a lottery with the outcome Ymax with probability ␲, and the outcome Ymin with probability (1 Ϫ ␲). Let ␲ vary and find out at which value of the probability, ␲*, the individual is indifferent between the lottery and the certain income Y*. The expected utility theorem implies that u(Y *)ϭ␲*u(Y max)ϩ(1...

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