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How Much Should we Trust Estimates of Firm Effects and Worker Sorting?

Author

Listed:
  • Stéphane Bonhomme

    (University of Chicago - Department of Economics)

  • Kerstin Holzheu

    (Sciences Po)

  • Thibaut Lamadon

    (University of Chicago - Department of Economics; NBER; IFAU; IFS)

  • Elena Manresa

    (New York University - Department of Economics)

  • Magne Mogstad

    (University of Chicago - Department of Economics; Statistics Norway; NBER; IFS)

  • Bradley Setzler

    (University of Chicago - Department of Economics)

Abstract

Many studies use matched employer-employee data to estimate a statistical model of earnings determination where log-earnings are expressed as the sum of worker effects, firm effects, covariates, and idiosyncratic error terms. Estimates based on this model have produced two influential yet controversial conclusions. First, firm effects typically explain around 20% of the variance of log-earnings, pointing to the importance of firm-specific wage-setting for earnings inequality. Second, the correlation between firm and worker effects is often small and sometimes negative, indicating little if any sorting of high-wage workers to high-paying firms. The objective of this paper is to assess the sensitivity of these conclusions to the biases that arise because of limited mobility of workers across firms. We use employer-employee data from the US and several European countries while taking advantage of both fixed-effects and random-effects methods for bias-correction. We find that limited mobility bias is severe and that bias-correction is important. Once one corrects for limited mobility bias, firm effects dispersion matters less for earnings inequality and worker sorting becomes always positive and typically strong.

Suggested Citation

  • Stéphane Bonhomme & Kerstin Holzheu & Thibaut Lamadon & Elena Manresa & Magne Mogstad & Bradley Setzler, 2020. "How Much Should we Trust Estimates of Firm Effects and Worker Sorting?," Working Papers 2020-77, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bfi:wpaper:2020-77
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Li, Jiang & Dostie, Benoit & Simard-Duplain, Gaëlle, 2020. "What Is the Role of Firm-Specific Pay Policies on the Gender Earnings Gap in Canada?," IZA Discussion Papers 13907, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Federico Huneeus & Kory Kroft & Kevin Lim, 2021. "Earnings Inequality in Production Networks," NBER Working Papers 28424, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Kory Kroft & Yao Luo & Magne Mogstad & Bradley Setzler, 2020. "Imperfect Competition and Rents in Labor and Product Markets: The Case of the Construction Industry," Working Papers tecipa-666, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
    4. Rosario Aldunate & Gabriela Contreras & Matías Tapia, 2020. "Labor Earnings Dispersion in Chile: Decomposition, Dynamics and the Role of Firms," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 892, Central Bank of Chile.
    5. Arellano-Bover, Jaime & Saltiel, Fernando, 2021. "Differences in On-the-Job Learning across Firms," IZA Discussion Papers 14473, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    6. Stéphane Bonhomme, 2021. "Selection on Welfare Gains: Experimental Evidence from Electricity Plan Choice," Working Papers 2021-15, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.
    7. Ihsaan Bassier & Arindrajit Dube & Suresh Naidu, 2020. "Monopsony in Movers: The Elasticity of Labor Supply to Firm Wage Policies," NBER Working Papers 27755, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Stephane Bonhomme, 2021. "Teams: Heterogeneity, Sorting, and Complementarity," Papers 2102.01802, arXiv.org.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Earnings inequality; firm effects; worker sorting; bias correction; fixed effects; random effects; matched employer employee data;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models

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