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The Changing Distribution of Job Satisfaction

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  • Daniel S. Hamermesh

Abstract

The distribution of job satisfaction widened across cohorts of young men in the United States between 1978 and 1988, and between 1978 and 1996, in ways correlated with changing wage inequality. Satisfaction among workers in upper earnings quantiles rose relative to that of workers in lower quantiles. An identical phenomenon is observed among men in West Germany in response to a sharp increase in the relative earnings of high-wage men in the mid-1990s. Several hypotheses about the determinants of satisfaction are presented and examined using both cross-section data on these cohorts and panel data from the NLSY and the German SOEP. The evidence is most consistent with workers regret about the returns to their investment in skills affecting their satisfaction. Job satisfaction is especially responsive to surprises in the returns to observable skills, less so to surprises in the returns to unobservables; and the effects of earnings shocks on job satisfaction dissipate over time.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7332.

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Date of creation: Sep 1999
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Publication status: published as Hamermesh, Daniel S. "The Changing Distribution Of Job Satisfaction," Journal of Human Resources, 2001, v36(1,Winter), 1-30.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7332

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  1. Andrew E. Clark and Andrew J. Oswald, . "Satisfaction and Comparison Income," Economics Discussion Papers, University of Essex, Department of Economics 419, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
  2. 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, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  3. LEVY-GARBOUA, Louis & MONTMARQUETTE, Claude, 1997. "Reported Job Satisfaction : What Does It Mean?," Cahiers de recherche, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques 9705, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  4. Freeman, Richard B, 1978. "Job Satisfaction as an Economic Variable," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 135-41, May.
  5. Steiner, Viktor & Wagner, Kersten, 1997. "East West German wage convergence - How far have we got?," ZEW Discussion Papers, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research 97-25, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  6. repec:hal:journl:halshs-00203197 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Gerlach, Knut & Stephan, Gesine, 1996. "A paper on unhappiness and unemployment in Germany," Economics Letters, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 325-330, September.
  8. Bound, John & Brown, Charles & Mathiowetz, Nancy, 2001. "Measurement error in survey data," Handbook of Econometrics, Elsevier, in: J.J. Heckman & E.E. Leamer (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 59, pages 3705-3843 Elsevier.
  9. Farber, Henry S, 1990. "The Decline of Unionization in the United States: What Can Be Learned from Recent Experience," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(1), pages S75-105, January.
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