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Recessions and the Costs of Job Loss

  • Steven J. Davis

    (University of Chicago Booth School of Business)

  • Till Von Wachter

    (Columbia University)

We develop new evidence on the cumulative earnings losses associated with job displacement, drawing on longitudinal Social Security records for U.S. workers from 1974 to 2008. In present value terms, men lose an average of 1.4 years of re-displacement earnings if displaced in mass layoff events that occur when the national unemployment rate is below 6 percent. They lose a staggering 2.8 years of pre-displacement earnings if displaced when the unemployment rate exceeds 8 percent. These results reflect discounting at a 5% annual rate over 20 years after displacement. We also document large cyclical movements in the incidence of job loss and job displacement and present evidence on how worker anxieties about job loss, wage cuts and job opportunities respond to contemporaneous economic conditions. Finally, we confront leading models of unemployment fluctuations with evidence on the present value earnings losses associated with job displacement. The model of Mortensen and Pissarides (1994) extended to include search on the job generates present value losses less than one-fourth as large as observed losses. Moreover, present value losses in the model vary little with aggregate conditions at the time of displacement, unlike the pattern in the data.

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File URL: http://econresearch.uchicago.edu/sites/econresearch.uchicago.edu/files/BFI_2011-009.pdf
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Paper provided by Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2011-009.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:bfi:wpaper:2011-009
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  1. Steven J. Davis & R. Jason Faberman & John C. Haltiwanger & Ian Rucker, 2010. "Adjusted Estimates of Worker Flows and Job Openings in JOLTS," NBER Chapters, in: Labor in the New Economy, pages 187-216 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Mari Rege, Kjetil Telle & Mark Votruba, 2005. "The Effect of Plant Downsizing on Disability Pension Utilization," Discussion Papers 435, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
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  4. Stevens, Ann Huff & Schaller, Jessamyn, 2011. "Short-run effects of parental job loss on children's academic achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 289-299, April.
  5. Dale T. Mortensen & Eva Nagypal, 2005. "More on Unemployment and Vacancy Fluctuations," NBER Working Papers 11692, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. Melvin Stephens, 2004. "Job Loss Expectations, Realizations, and Household Consumption Behavior," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(1), pages 253-269, February.
  8. Steven J. Davis & Jason Faberman & John C. Haltiwanger, 2011. "Labor Market Flows in the Cross Section and Over Time," NBER Working Papers 17294, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Eric J. Bartelsman & Mark Doms, 2000. "Understanding productivity: lessons from longitudinal microdata," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2000-19, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  10. Mortensen, Dale & Pissarides, Christopher, 2011. "Job Creation and Job Destruction in the Theory of Unemployment," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 1, pages 19 pages.
  11. Daniel Sullivan & Till von Wachter, 2009. "Job Displacement and Mortality: An Analysis Using Administrative Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(3), pages 1265-1306.
  12. Ann Huff Stevens & Marianne Page & Philip Oreopoulos, 2005. "The Intergenerational Effects of Worker Displacement," Working Papers 521, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  13. Garey Ramey, 2008. "Exogenous vs. Endogenous Separation," 2008 Meeting Papers 466, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  14. Robert Shimer, 2010. "Labor Markets and Business Cycles," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9217.
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  17. Marcus Hagedorn & Iourii Manovskii, 2007. "The Cyclical Behavior of Equilibrium Unemployment and Vacancies Revisited," IEW - Working Papers 351, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  18. Maxim Poletaev & Chris Robinson, 2008. "Human Capital Specificity: Evidence from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and Displaced Worker Surveys 1984-2000," University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP) Working Papers 20083, University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP).
  19. Burcu Eyigungor, 2010. "Specific Capital and Vintage Effects on the Dynamics of Unemployment and Vacancies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 1214-37, June.
  20. Robert E. Hall, 2010. "Comment on "Adjusted Estimates of Worker Flows and Job Openings in JOLTS"," NBER Chapters, in: Labor in the New Economy, pages 216-221 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Robert Shimer, 2012. "Reassessing the Ins and Outs of Unemployment," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 15(2), pages 127-148, April.
  22. Juha Kilponen & Juuso Vanhala, 2014. "Sensitivity of Job Destruction to Vintage and Tenure Effects," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 116(4), pages 1068-1090, October.
  23. George A. Akerlof & Janet L. Yellen, 1990. "The Fair Wage-Effort Hypothesis and Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(2), pages 255-283.
  24. Ken Binmore & Ariel Rubinstein & Asher Wolinsky, 1986. "The Nash Bargaining Solution in Economic Modelling," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(2), pages 176-188, Summer.
  25. Katharine G. Abraham & James R. Spletzer & Michael Harper, 2010. "Labor in the New Economy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number abra08-1, 07.
  26. Matthias S. Hertweck, 2010. "Endogenous On-the-job Search and Frictional Wage Dispersion," Working papers 2010/02, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.
  27. Kahn, Lisa B., 2010. "The long-term labor market consequences of graduating from college in a bad economy," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 303-316, April.
  28. Johannes F. Schmieder & Till von Wachter, 2010. "Does Wage Persistence Matter for Employment Fluctuations? Evidence from Displaced Workers," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 1-21, July.
  29. Steven J. Davis & R. Jason Faberman & John Haltiwanger, 2006. "The Flow Approach to Labor Markets: New Data Sources and Micro-Macro Links," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(3), pages 3-26, Summer.
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