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Wage Dispersion: Why Are Similar Workers Paid Differently?

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Author Info

  • Dale T. Mortensen

    ()
    (Northwestern University)

Abstract

Why are workers with identical skills found in both "good" jobs and "bad" jobs? Why are workers who do similar jobs paid differently, contrary to standard competitive theory? Observable differences in workers doing the same job account for only 30 percent of wage variation. In Wage Dispersion, Dale Mortensen examines the reasons for pay differentials in the other 70 percent. He finds that these differentials, or wage dispersion, are largely the result of job search friction (which arises when workers do not know the wages offered by all employers) and cross-firm differences in wage policy and productivity. Mortensen examines previous theoretical explanations for wage dispersion, testing them against data from a Danish matched employer-employee database. He begins by offering a simple one-period model of the problem, then expands this basic model intertemporally to include the role of on-the-job worker search behavior. Following this, he discusses theoretical modifications that offer an explanation for the nature of observed wage dispersion, particularly the shape of cross-firm wage distribution. He then examines the hypothesis that wage policies are determined by profit-maximizing behavior and finds that the Danish data do not support it; he argues that bilateral wage bargaining is the more likely determinant. Finally, he reviews recent work that extends the basic theoretical framework to explain wage dispersion within firms.

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Bibliographic Info

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This book is provided by The MIT Press in its series MIT Press Books with number 0262633191 and published in 2005.

Volume: 1
Edition: 1
ISBN: 0-262-63319-1
Handle: RePEc:mtp:titles:0262633191

Contact details of provider:
Web page: http://mitpress.mit.edu

Related research

Keywords: wage dispersion; pay differentials;

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Cited by:
  1. Cheremukhin, Anton A. & Tutino, Antonella & Restrepo-Echavarria, Paulina, 2014. "A theory of targeted search," Working Papers 1402, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
  2. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/eu4vqp9ompqllr09j0045h4bh is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Hornstein, Andreas & Krusell, Per & Violante, Giovanni L, 2006. "Frictional Wage Dispersion in Search Models: A Quantitative Approach," CEPR Discussion Papers 5935, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Francis Teal, 2014. "Employment Creation, Poverty and the Structure of the Job Market in Nigeria," CSAE Working Paper Series 2014-18, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  5. Mok, Penny & Mason, Geoff & Stevens, Philip & Timmins, Jason, 2012. "A Good Worker is Hard to Find: Skills Shortages in New Zealand Firms," Occasional Papers 12/5, Ministry of Economic Development, New Zealand.
  6. Jesper Bagger & Fran├žois Fontaine & Fabien Postel-Vinay & Jean-Marc Robin, 2011. "Tenure, Experience, Human Capital and Wages: A Tractable Equilibrium Search Model of Wage Dynamics," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/eu4vqp9ompq, Sciences Po.
  7. Giovanni L. Violante & Per Krusell & Andreas Hornstein, 2006. "Frictional wage dispersion in search models: a quantitative assessment," Working Paper 06-07, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  8. Salverda, Wiemer & Checchi, Daniele, 2014. "Labour-Market Institutions and the Dispersion of Wage Earnings," IZA Discussion Papers 8220, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Francis Teal, 2010. "Higher Education and Economic Development in Africa: a Review of Channels and Interactions," Economics Series Working Papers CSAE WPS/2010-25, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  10. Justin Sandefur & Pieter Serneels, 2006. "African poverty through the lens of labor economics: Earnings & mobility in three countries," Economics Series Working Papers GPRG-WPS-060, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  11. Falco, Paolo & Kerr, Andrew & Rankin, Neil & Sandefur, Justin & Teal, Francis, 2011. "The returns to formality and informality in urban Africa," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(S1), pages S23-S31.
  12. Ambra Poggi, 2013. "Labor mobility network and intra firm wage dispersion," LABORatorio R. Revelli Working Papers Series 133, LABORatorio R. Revelli, Centre for Employment Studies.

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