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Does Unmeasured Ability Explain Inter-Industry Wage Differentials?

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  • Robert Gibbons
  • Lawrence Katz

Abstract

This paper provides empirical assessments of the two leading explanations of measured inter-industry wage differentials: (1) true wage differentials exist across industries, and (2) the measured differentials simply reflect unmeasured differences in workers' productive abilities. First, we summarize the existing evidence on the unmeasured-ability explanation. Second, we construct a simple model which shows that if matching is important then endogenous job-change decisions can create important self-selection biases even in first-differenced estimates of industry wage differentials. Third, we analyze a sample that approximates the experiment of exogenous job loss. We find that (i) the wage change experienced by a typical industry switcher closely resembles the difference in the relevant industry differentials estimated in a cross-section, and (ii) pre-displacement industry affiliation plays an important role in post-displacement wage determination.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Gibbons & Lawrence Katz, 1992. "Does Unmeasured Ability Explain Inter-Industry Wage Differentials?," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 59(3), pages 515-535.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:59:y:1992:i:3:p:515-535.
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    1. Nickell, Stephen J & Wadhwani, Sushil, 1990. "Insider Forces and Wage Determination," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 496-509, June.
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    3. Addison, John T & Portugal, Pedro, 1989. "Job Displacement, Relative Wage Changes, and Duration of Unemployment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(3), pages 281-302, July.
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    5. Solon, Gary, 1988. "Self-selection bias in longitudinal estimation of wage gaps," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 285-290.
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    7. Alan B. Krueger & Lawrence H. Summers, 1986. "Reflections on the Inter-Industry Wage Structure," NBER Working Papers 1968, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Lawrence F. Katz, 1986. "Efficiency Wage Theories: A Partial Evaluation," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1986, Volume 1, pages 235-290 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Charles Brown, 1980. "Equalizing Differences in the Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 94(1), pages 113-134.
    10. A. D. Roy, 1951. "Some Thoughts On The Distribution Of Earnings," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 135-146.
    11. Heckman, James J & Sedlacek, Guilherme, 1985. "Heterogeneity, Aggregation, and Market Wage Functions: An Empirical Model of Self-selection in the Labor Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(6), pages 1077-1125, December.
    12. Clive Bull & Boyan Jovanovic, 1988. "Mismatch Versus Derived-Demand Shift as Causes of Labour Mobility," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 55(1), pages 169-175.
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