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Agent Heterogeneity and Learning: An Application to Labor Markets

  • Simon D Woodcock

I develop a matching model with heterogeneous workers, rms, and worker-firm matches, and apply it to longitudinal linked data on employers and employees. Workers vary in their marginal product when employed and their value of leisure when unemployed. Firms vary in their marginal product and cost of maintaining a vacancy. The marginal product of a worker-firm match also depends on a match-specific interaction between worker and rm that I call match quality. Agents have complete information about worker and rm heterogeneity, and symmetric but incomplete information about match quality. They learn its value slowly by observing production outcomes. There are two key results. First, under a Nash bargain, the equilibrium wage is linear in a person-specific component, a firm-specific component, and the posterior mean of beliefs about match quality. Second, in each period the separation decision depends only on the posterior mean of beliefs and person and rm characteristics. These results have several implications for an empirical model of earnings with person and rm e ects. The rst implies that residuals within a worker-firm match are a martingale; the second implies the distribution of earnings is truncated. I test predictions from the matching model using data from the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) Program at the US Census Bureau. I present both xed and mixed model specifications of the equilibrium wage function, taking account of structural aspects implied by the learning process. In the most general specification, earnings residuals have a completely unstructured covariance within a worker-firm match. I estimate and test a variety of more parsimonious error structures, including the martingale structure implied by the learning process. I nd considerable support for the matching model in these data.

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Paper provided by Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau in its series Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Technical Papers with number 2002-20.

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Length: 74 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cen:tpaper:2002-20
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  1. Robert Shimer & Lones Smith, 2000. "Assortative Matching and Search," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(2), pages 343-370, March.
  2. Fabien Postel-Vinay & Jean-Marc Robin, 2002. "Equilibrium wage dispersion with worker and employer heterogeneity," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/dc0ckec3fcb, Sciences Po.
  3. �va Nagyp�l, 2007. "Learning by Doing vs. Learning About Match Quality: Can We Tell Them Apart?," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(2), pages 537-566.
  4. Benoit Dostie, 2003. "Controlling for Demand Side Factors and Job Matching: Maximum Likelihood Estimates of the Returns to Seniority Using Matched Employer-Employee Data," Cahiers de recherche 03-02, HEC Montréal, Institut d'économie appliquée.
  5. Abowd, John M. & Kramarz, Francis, 1999. "Econometric analyses of linked employer-employee data," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 53-74, March.
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  7. James Albrecht & Susan Vroman, 2000. "A Matching Model with Endogenous Skill Requirements," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 0774, Econometric Society.
  8. John M. Abowd & Francis Kramarz & David N. Margolis, 1999. "High Wage Workers and High Wage Firms," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(2), pages 251-334, March.
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  13. Robert Gibbons & Lawrence F. Katz & Thomas Lemieux & Daniel Parent, 2005. "Comparative Advantage, Learning, and Sectoral Wage Determination," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(4), pages 681-724, October.
  14. Sattinger, Michael, 1995. "Search and the Efficient Assignment of Workers to Jobs," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 36(2), pages 283-302, May.
  15. Burgess, Simon & Lane, Julia & Stevens, David, 2000. "Job Flows, Worker Flows, and Churning," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 473-502, July.
  16. K. Newey, Whitney, 1985. "Generalized method of moments specification testing," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 229-256, September.
  17. Harris, Milton & Holstrom, Bengt, 1982. "A Theory of Wage Dynamics," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(3), pages 315-33, July.
  18. Burdett, Kenneth & Coles, Melvyn G, 1999. "Long-Term Partnership Formation: Marriage and Employment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(456), pages F307-34, June.
  19. Hansen, Lars Peter, 1982. "Large Sample Properties of Generalized Method of Moments Estimators," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(4), pages 1029-54, July.
  20. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1979. "Job Matching and the Theory of Turnover," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 972-90, October.
  21. John M. Abowd & Robert H. Creecy & Francis Kramarz, 2002. "Computing Person and Firm Effects Using Linked Longitudinal Employer-Employee Data," Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Technical Papers 2002-06, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  22. Gautier, Pieter A, 2002. "Unemployment and Search Externalities in a Model with Heterogeneous Jobs and Workers," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 69(273), pages 21-40, February.
  23. Stern, Steven, 1990. "The Effects of Firm Optimizing Behaviour in Matching Models," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(4), pages 647-60, October.
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