The effect of social benefits on youth employment: combining RD and a behavioral model
Journal of Human Resources, Vol. 52, No. 4, Fall 2017, pp. 1032-1059
Natural experiments provide robust identifying assumptions for the estimation of policy effects. Yet their use for policy design is often limited by the difficulty of extrapolating on the basis of reduced-form estimates. In this study, we exploit an age condition in the eligibility for social assistance in France, which lends itself to a regression discontinuity (RD) design. We suggest to make the underlying labor supply model explicit, i.e. to translate the reduced-form discontinuity in terms of discontinuous changes in disposable incomes. This exercise shows the potential of combining natural experiments and behavioral models. In particular, we can test the external validity of the combined approach. We find that it predicts the effect of a subsequent reform, which extends transfers to the working poor, remarkably well. The model is then used to simulate the extension of social assistance to young people and finds that a transfer program with an in-work component would not create further disincentives to work in this population.