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Earnings functions when wages and prices vary by location

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  • Dan Black
  • Natalia Kolesnikova
  • Lowell J. Taylor

Abstract

In this paper we study whether location-specific price variation likely affects statistical inference and theoretical interpretation in the empirical implementation of human capital earnings functions. We demonstrate, in a model of local labor markets, that the ?return to schooling" is a constant across locations if and only if preferences are homothetic ? a special case that seems unlikely to generally pertain. Examination of U.S. Census data (for 1980, 1990, and 2000) provides persuasive evidence that the return to a college education, relative to a high school education, does indeed vary widely across cities, e.g., in 1990 the return in Houston is 0.54 while in Seattle it is only 0.33. We provide theoretical reasons to suspect that the returns to education are relatively lower in expensive high-amenity locations, and present evidence consistent with this prediction. Finally, we raise concerns about standard empirical exercises in labor economics which treat the returns to education as a single parameter.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in its series Working Papers with number 2007-031.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2007-031

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Keywords: Wages ; Labor market ; Education;

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  1. Joshua D. Angrist & Alan B. Krueger, 1990. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," NBER Working Papers 3572, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Murphy, Kevin M & Welch, Finis, 1992. "The Structure of Wages," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(1), pages 285-326, February.
  3. Stuart A. Gabriel & Stuart S. Rosenthal, 2004. "Quality of the Business Environment Versus Quality of Life: Do Firms and Households Like the Same Cities?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(1), pages 438-444, February.
  4. Black, Dan & Sanders, Seth & Taylor, Lowell, 2003. "Measurement of Higher Education in the Census and Current Population Survey," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 98, pages 545-554, January.
  5. Rosen, Harvey S., 1985. "Housing subsidies: Effects on housing decisions, efficiency, and equity," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 7, pages 375-420 Elsevier.
  6. Olsen, Edgar O., 1987. "The demand and supply of housing service: A critical survey of the empirical literature," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: E. S. Mills (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 25, pages 989-1022 Elsevier.
  7. Edward L. Glaeser & Joseph Gyourko, . "Urban Decline and Durable Housing," Zell/Lurie Center Working Papers 382, Wharton School Samuel Zell and Robert Lurie Real Estate Center, University of Pennsylvania.
  8. Gordon B. Dahl, 2002. "Mobility and the Return to Education: Testing a Roy Model with Multiple Markets," RCER Working Papers 488, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  9. Barry R. Chiswick, 1974. "Income Inequality: Regional Analyses within a Human Capital Framework," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number chis74-1.
  10. Harmon, Oskar R., 1988. "The income elasticity of demand for single-family owner-occupied housing: An empirical reconciliation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 173-185, September.
  11. Gyourko, Joseph & Kahn, Matthew & Tracy, Joseph, 1999. "Quality of life and environmental comparisons," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: P. C. Cheshire & E. S. Mills (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 37, pages 1413-1454 Elsevier.
  12. Roback, Jennifer, 1982. "Wages, Rents, and the Quality of Life," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(6), pages 1257-78, December.
  13. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  14. Haurin, Donald R, 1980. "The Regional Distribution of Population, Migration, and Climate," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 95(2), pages 293-308, September.
  15. James J. Heckman & Lance J. Lochner & Petra E. Todd, 2003. "Fifty Years of Mincer Earnings Regressions," NBER Working Papers 9732, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Beeson, Patricia E., 1991. "Amenities and regional differences in returns to worker characteristics," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 224-241, September.
  17. Glaeser, Edward L & Mare, David C, 2001. "Cities and Skills," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(2), pages 316-42, April.
  18. William C. Horrace & Peter Schmidt, 2000. "Multiple comparisons with the best, with economic applications," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(1), pages 1-26.
  19. Hausman, J. A. & Newey, W. K. & Powell, J. L., 1995. "Nonlinear errors in variables Estimation of some Engel curves," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 205-233, January.
  20. Acemoglu, Daron, 1996. "A Microfoundation for Social Increasing Returns in Human Capital Accumulation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(3), pages 779-804, August.
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