When I saw the headline, I assumed it was satire, but I quickly realized that somebody really was dumb enough to be confused about this: “University of Minnesota digs into why people with generous unemployment benefits take longer to find work.” That was a headline in the Minneapolis Star-Tribute last weekend. Whoever could take this question seriously doesn’t understand human nature. The article says, “…[W]hen people are offered more generous unemployment benefits — such as a longer time horizon and higher payments — they take longer to find new jobs.” Well, duh. Is anybody surprised by this? The researcher who led the study says she sees no evidence that it’s because people are slackers, but she doesn’t understand human nature. If somebody is paying you while you’re unemployed, your incentive to look hard for a job is lower and you can be pickier about which job to accept. You can turn your nose up at bad jobs. It’s not that I don’t have sympathy for people who are struggling to find work. I was there just five years ago. But I do understand human nature. When you’re broke and the wolf is banging at your door, you’re willing to take anything.
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