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Workplace Experiences and Unemployment Insurance Claims: How Personal Relationships and the Structure of Work Shape Access to Public Benefits

Mathematica Policy Research

What influences whether unemployed individuals take up Unemployment Insurance (UI)? For answers to this question, research on the take-up of public benefits has looked to the individual government social programs and their interactions. This study shows that workplace context also plays a prominent role in UI take-up. Using data from 45 qualitative interviews with a diverse group of workers who experienced job loss between 2007 and 2011, this study documents how the interpersonal climate at work prior to job loss, the environmental context at the time of job loss, and the structural arrangement of work interact with employee characteristics to impede or facilitate benefit access in a distinct manner. Although further research is necessary to fully understand employer behavior, the results suggest that changes to employer incentives and behavior have the potential to facilitate access to UI.