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Minu, Startu and All That: Pitfalls in Estimating the Sensitivity of a Worker's Wage to Aggregate Unemployment

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  • Martins, Pedro S.

    ()
    (Queen Mary, University of London)

  • Snell, Andy

    ()
    (University of Edinburgh)

  • Thomas, Jonathan P.

    ()
    (University of Edinburgh)

Abstract

In this paper we show that panel estimates of tenure specific sensitivity to the business cycle of wages is subject to serious pitfalls. Three canonical variates used in the literature – the minimum unemployment rate during a worker’s time at the firm (min u), the unemployment rate at the start of her tenure (Su) and the current unemployment rate interacted with a new hire dummy (δu) – can all be significant and "correctly" signed even when each worker in the firm receives the same wage, regardless of tenure (equal treatment). In matched data the problem can be resolved by the inclusion in the panel of firm-year interaction dummies. In unmatched data where this is not possible, we propose a solution for min u and Su based on Solon, Barsky and Parker's (1994) two step method. Our proposed solution method is however suboptimal because it removes a lot of potentially informative variation in average wages. Unfortunately δu cannot be identified in unmatched data because a differential wage response to unemployment of new hires and incumbents will appear under both equal treatment and unequal treatment.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 5503.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5503

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Keywords: wage cyclicality; unemployment;

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  1. Thierry Lallemand & Robert Plasman & François Rycx, 2005. "The establishment-size wage premium: evidence from European countries," DULBEA Working Papers 05-07.RS, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  2. Baker, George & Gibbs, Michael & Holmstrom, Bengt, 1994. "The Wage Policy of a Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 109(4), pages 921-55, November.
  3. Esteban Rossi-Hansberg & Mark L. J. Wright, 2007. "Establishment Size Dynamics in the Aggregate Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(5), pages 1639-1666, December.
  4. Darren Grant, 2003. "The effect of implicit contracts on the movement of wages over the business cycle: Evidence from the national longitudinal surveys," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(3), pages 393-408, April.
  5. Solon, Gary & Barsky, Robert & Parker, Jonathan A, 1994. "Measuring the Cyclicality of Real Wages: How Important Is Composition Bias?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 109(1), pages 1-25, February.
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