IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Sources of earnings inequality: Estimates from an on-the-job search model of the US labor market

  • Flabbi, Luca
  • Leonardi, Marco

Since the early 1980s the labor market in the United States has seen a substantial increase in earnings dispersion. We study the issue by developing an on-the-job search model of the US labor market that allows for wage and employment mobility as a result of optimal individual behavior. We estimate its structural parameters on PSID data at different points in time to clarify the sources of the evolution of earnings inequality and instability between 1987 and 1996. This procedure allows to: compute lifetime measure of inequality on top of the usual cross-sectional measure of inequality and provide counterfactual experiments that evaluate the contribution of different parameters to changes over time by taking into account some equilibrium effects. We find that the increase in lifetime inequality and in cross-sectional inequality have been generated by different sources and that these sources are different by skills: changes in the wage offer distribution are the main determinant of the increase in inequality for skilled workers while both mobility changes and wage offer distribution changes are needed to explain changes for the unskilled.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal European Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 54 (2010)
Issue (Month): 6 (August)
Pages: 832-854

in new window

Handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:54:y:2010:i:6:p:832-854
Contact details of provider: Web page:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Matthew S. Dey & Christopher J. Flinn, 2005. "An Equilibrium Model of Health Insurance Provision and Wage Determination," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(2), pages 571-627, 03.
  2. Jonathan Heathcote & Fabrizio Perri & Giovanni L. Violante, 2010. "Unequal We Stand: An Empirical Analysis of Economic Inequality in the United States: 1967-2006," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 13(1), pages 15-51, January.
  3. Eckstein, Zvi & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1995. "Duration to First Job and the Return to Schooling: Estimates from a Search-Matching Model," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(2), pages 263-86, April.
  4. James Mabli & Christopher Flinn, 2007. "On-the-Job Search, Minimum Wages, and Labor Market Outcomes in an Equilibrium Bargaining Framework," 2007 Meeting Papers 791, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Peter Gottschalk & Robert Moffitt, 1994. "The Growth of Earnings Instability in the U.S. Labor Market," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(2), pages 217-272.
  6. Tullio Jappelli & Luigi Pistaferri, 1999. "Intertemporal Choice and Consumption Mobility," CSEF Working Papers 23, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  7. Thomas Lemieux, 2006. "Postsecondary Education and Increasing Wage Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 195-199, May.
  8. Thomas Lemieux, 2006. "Increasing Residual Wage Inequality: Composition Effects, Noisy Data, or Rising Demand for Skill?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 461-498, June.
  9. Cardoso, Ana Rute, 2006. "Wage mobility: do institutions make a difference?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 387-404, June.
  10. Moshe Buchinsky & Jennifer Hunt, 1999. "Wage Mobility In The United States," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(3), pages 351-368, August.
  11. Jonathan Heathcote & Kjetil Storesletten & Giovanni L. Violante, 2007. "Insurance and Opportunities: A Welfare Analysis of Labor Market Risk," NBER Working Papers 13673, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Christopher J. Flinn, 2002. "Labour Market Structure and Inequality: A Comparison of Italy and the U.S," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(3), pages 611-645.
  13. Luca Flabbi, 2004. "Gender Discrimination Estimation in a Search Model with Matching and Bargaining," 2004 Meeting Papers 367, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  14. James Heckman & Lance Lochner & Christopher Taber, 1998. "Explaining Rising Wage Inequality: Explanations With A Dynamic General Equilibrium Model of Labor Earnings With Heterogeneous Agents," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(1), pages 1-58, January.
  15. Postel-Vinay, Fabien & Robin, Jean-Marc, 2002. "Equilibrium Wage Dispersion with Worker and Employer Heterogeneity," CEPR Discussion Papers 3548, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  16. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
  17. repec:ese:iserwp:2007-04 is not listed on IDEAS
  18. Kambourov, Gueorgui & Manovskii, Iourii, 2004. "Occupational Mobility and Wage Inequality," IZA Discussion Papers 1189, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  19. repec:inr:wpaper:155908 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. James J. Heckman & Christopher J. Flinn, 1982. "New Methods for Analyzing Structural Models of Labor Force Dynamics," NBER Working Papers 0856, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2008. "Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality: Revising the Revisionists," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 300-323, May.
  22. Jean-Marc Robin & Francois Fontaine & Fabien Postel-Vinay & Jesper Bagger, 2011. "A Feasible Equilibrium Search Model of Individual Wage Dynamics with Experience Accumulation," 2011 Meeting Papers 278, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  23. Jaeger, David A. & Stevens, Ann Huff, 1999. "Is Job Stability in the United States Falling?," IZA Discussion Papers 35, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  24. Bernhardt, Annette, et al, 1999. "Trends in Job Instability and Wages for Young Adult Men," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(4), pages S65-90, October.
  25. Lorenzo Cappellari & Marco Leonardi, 2013. "Earnings Instability and Tenure," CESifo Working Paper Series 4145, CESifo Group Munich.
  26. Flabbi, Luca & Leonardi, Marco, 2008. "Sources of Earnings Instability: Estimates from an On-the-Job Search Model of the U.S. Labor Market," IZA Discussion Papers 3387, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  27. Leonardi, Marco, 2003. "Earnings Instability of Job Stayers and Job Changers," IZA Discussion Papers 946, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  28. Richard Blundell & Ian Preston, 1998. "Consumption Inequality And Income Uncertainty," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(2), pages 603-640, May.
  29. Robert A. Moffitt & Peter Gottschalk, 2002. "Trends in the Transitory Variance of Earnings in the United States," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(478), pages C68-C73, March.
  30. Dirk Krueger & Fabrizio Perri, 2006. "Does Income Inequality Lead to Consumption Inequality? Evidence and Theory -super-1," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(1), pages 163-193.
  31. Shorrocks, Anthony F, 1984. "Inequality Decomposition by Population Subgroups," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(6), pages 1369-85, November.
  32. Attanasio, Orazio & Davis, Steven J, 1996. "Relative Wage Movements and the Distribution of Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(6), pages 1227-62, December.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:54:y:2010:i:6:p:832-854. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Zhang, Lei)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.