December 1, 2012
In this brief, we highlight research published in the October 2012 issue of Monthly Labor Review by Alix Gould-Werth and H. Luke Shaefer of the University of Michigan that examines the extent to which the likelihood of applying for, and of receiving unemployment insurance conditional on application, varies by education level and by racial and ethnic background. Second, we highlight findings showing how perceptions of ineligibility among those who fail to apply may vary by these demographic categories. This research demonstrates that low-educated and racial minority unemployed workers -- those who may need financial support most during periods without work -- are doubly disadvantaged in accessing unemployment insurance: not only do they report lower application rates, but the unemployed who do apply also report lower rates of receipt. Even though the authors' findings leave unanswered questions about the eligibility of non-applicants and the reasons applicants fail to access UI, their evidence suggests that increasing rates of application among disadvantaged populations would narrow the gap in benefit receipt. Thus, after summarizing the relevant findings, we offer recommendations for increasing application rates.