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Age, Education and Occupational Earnings Inequality


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  • Edward N. Wolff
  • Dennis M. Bushe


In this paper, we will investigate the effect of six factors on occupational earnings inequality across all occupations in our sample and across occupations in five major Census subgroups. Those six factors are: differences in tasks, different levels of efficiency, institutional factors, time worked, the demand for labor and discrimination. Age and schooling will receive primary attention in our work and it will be shown that they are important determinants of earnings inequality among professional and clerical occupations but not among skilled, semi-skilled or unskilled occupations. Ability is also hypothesized as an important factor, but no measure of ability is provided in our sample. Differences in time worked and labor demand conditions, as measured by industrial and urban-rural mix, will also be analyzed, and their effect on earnings inequality is strong in most of the occupational subsamples. Differences in the race and sex composition of occupations do not appear to be significant factors in occupational earnings inequality, and the explanation offered is that discrimination takes the form of occupational segregation rather than differences in pay for similar work. In the conclusion a sketch of a "structural" theory of income distribution is proposed to account for our results.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 0149.

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Date of creation: Sep 1976
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as "Schooling & Occupational Earnings." Review of Income and Wealth, Vol. 23, No. 3, (September 1977), pp. 259-278.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0149

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Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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  1. Ruggles, Richard, 1970. "Income Distribution Theory," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 16(3), pages 211-19, September.
  2. Alexander, Arthur J, 1974. "Income, Experience, and the Structure of Internal Labor Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 88(1), pages 63-85, February.
  3. Welch, Finis, 1973. "Black-White Differences in Returns to Schooling," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(5), pages 893-907, December.
  4. Farbman, Michael, 1973. "Income Concentration in the Southern United States," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 55(3), pages 333-40, August.
  5. Hanushek, Eric A, 1973. "Regional Differences in the Structure of Earnings," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 55(2), pages 204-13, May.
  6. Katz, David A, 1973. "Faculty Salaries, Promotion, and Productivity at a Large University," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(3), pages 469-77, June.
  7. Klevmarken, N Anders & Quigley, John M, 1976. "Age, Experience, Earnings, and Investments in Human Capital," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(1), pages 47-72, February.
  8. Hause, John C, 1972. "Earnings Profile: Ability and Schooling," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(3), pages S108-S38, Part II, .
  9. Johnson, George E & Stafford, Frank P, 1974. "Lifetime Earnings in a Professional Labor Market: Academic Economists," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(3), pages 549-69, May/June.
  10. Barzel, Yoram, 1973. "The Determination of Daily Hours and Wages," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 87(2), pages 220-38, May.
  11. Hansen, W Lee & Weisbrod, Burton A & Scanlon, William J, 1970. "Schooling and Earnings of Low Achievers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(3), pages 409-18, June.
  12. Link, Charles R, 1973. "The Quantity and Quality of Education and Their Influence on Earnings: The Case of Chemical Engineers," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 55(2), pages 241-47, May.
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Cited by:
  1. Edward N. Wolff & Joel Hay, 1977. "Educational Screening and Occupational Earnings," NBER Working Papers 0174, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.


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