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Aggregation Bias in Elasticities of Substitution and the Minimum Wage Paradox

  • Teulings, Coen N

While the employment effects of minimum wages are usually reported to be small (suggesting low substitutability between skill types), direct estimates suggest a much larger degree of substitutability. This article argues that this paradox is largely due to a bias induced by the aggregation of skill types into broad categories. An assignment model is applied where skilled workers have a comparative advantage in complex jobs. The implied pattern of substitutability reveals the sources of the bias. Estimation results for the United States show elasticities of complementarity to be underestimated by up to a factor 2.5. The methods laid out likewise can be applied to other markets where different quality types are close substitutes, such as the housing market. Copyright 2000 by Economics Department of the University of Pennsylvania and the Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association.

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Article provided by Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association in its journal International Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 41 (2000)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Pages: 359-98

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Handle: RePEc:ier:iecrev:v:41:y:2000:i:2:p:359-98
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  1. Robert H. Meyer & David A. Wise, 1982. "The Effects of the Minimum Wage on the Employment and Earnings of Youth," NBER Working Papers 0849, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Sattinger, Michael, 1975. "Comparative Advantage and the Distributions of Earnings and Abilities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 43(3), pages 455-68, May.
  3. Joseph G. Altonji & David Card, 1991. "The Effects of Immigration on the Labor Market Outcomes of Less-skilled Natives," NBER Chapters, in: Immigration, Trade, and the Labor Market, pages 201-234 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Brown, Charles & Gilroy, Curtis & Kohen, Andrew, 1982. "The Effect of the Minimum Wage on Employment and Unemployment," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 487-528, June.
  5. MacDonald, Glenn M, 1982. "Information in Production," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(5), pages 1143-62, September.
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  9. Robert H. Meyer & David A. Wise, 1981. "Discontinuous Distributions and Missing Persons: The Minimum Wage and Unemployed Youth," NBER Working Papers 0711, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Chang, Yang-Ming & Ehrlich, Isaac, 1985. "On the Economics of Compliance with the Minimum Wage Law," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(1), pages 84-91, February.
  11. Card, David & Krueger, Alan B, 1994. "Minimum Wages and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast-Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 772-93, September.
  12. Sattinger, Michael, 1993. "Assignment Models of the Distribution of Earnings," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 31(2), pages 831-80, June.
  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. Charles Brown & Curtis Gilroy & Andrew Kohen, 1982. "The Effect of the Minimum Wage on Employment and Unemployment: A Survey," NBER Working Papers 0846, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1993. "Labor Demand and the Source of Adjustment Costs," NBER Working Papers 4394, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Coen N. Teulings, 1998. "The Contribution of Minimum Wages to Increasing Wage Inequality," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 98-093/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  17. Teulings, Coen N, 1995. "The Wage Distribution in a Model of the Assignment of Skills to Jobs," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(2), pages 280-315, April.
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