IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/cen/tpaper/2005-04.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Wage Dispersion, Compensation Policy and the Role of Firms

Author

Listed:
  • Bryce Stephens

Abstract

Empirical work in economics stresses the importance of unobserved firm- and person-level characteristics in the determination of wages, finding that these unobserved components account for the overwhelming majority of variation in wages. However, little is known about the mechanisms sustaining these wage di¤er- entials. This paper attempts to demystify the firm-side of the puzzle by developing a statistical model that enriches the role that firms play in wage determination, allowing firms to influence both average wages as well as the returns to observable worker characteristics. I exploit the hierarchical nature of a unique employer-employee linked dataset for the United States, estimating a multilevel statistical model of earnings that accounts for firm-specific deviations in average wages as well as the returns to components of human capital - race, gender, education, and experience - while also controlling for person-level heterogeneity in earnings. These idiosyncratic prices reflect one aspect of firm compensation policy; another, and more novel aspect, is the unstructured characterization of the covariance of these prices across firms. I estimate the model's variance parameters using Restricted (or Residual) Maximum Likelihood tech- niques. Results suggest that there is significant variation in the returns to worker characteristics across firms. First, estimates of the parameters of the covariance matrix of firm-specific returns are statistically significant. Firms that tend to pay higher average wages also tend to pay higher than average returns to worker characteristics; firms that tend to reward highly the human capital of men also highly reward the human capital of women. For instance, the correlation between the firm-specific returns to education for men and women is 0.57. Second, the firm-specific returns account for roughly 9% of the variation in wages - approximately 50% of the variation in wages explained by firm-specific intercepts alone. The inclusion of firm-specific returns ties variation in wages, otherwise attributable to firm-specific intercepts, to observable components of human capital.

Suggested Citation

  • Bryce Stephens, 2005. "Wage Dispersion, Compensation Policy and the Role of Firms," Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Technical Papers 2005-04, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:tpaper:2005-04
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://www2.census.gov/ces/tp/tp-2005-04.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2005
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. John M. Abowd & Bryce E. Stephens & Lars Vilhuber & Fredrik Andersson & Kevin L. McKinney & Marc Roemer & Simon Woodcock, 2009. "The LEHD Infrastructure Files and the Creation of the Quarterly Workforce Indicators," NBER Chapters,in: Producer Dynamics: New Evidence from Micro Data, pages 149-230 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. A. R. Cardoso, 2000. "Wage differentials across firms: an application of multilevel modelling," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(4), pages 343-354.
    3. Lazear, Edward P, 2000. "The Future of Personnel Economics," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(467), pages 611-639, November.
    4. Steven J. Davis & John Haltiwanger, 1996. "Employer Size and the Wage Structure in U.S. Manufacturing," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 41-42, pages 323-367.
    5. Brown, Charles & Medoff, James, 1989. "The Employer Size-Wage Effect," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(5), pages 1027-1059, October.
    6. 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.
    7. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
    8. George Baker & Michael Gibbs & Bengt Holmstrom, 1994. "The Wage Policy of a Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 921-955.
    9. Edward P. Lazear, 2003. "Firm-Specific Human Capital: A Skill-Weights Approach," NBER Working Papers 9679, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Casey Ichniowski & Kathryn Shaw, 2003. "Beyond Incentive Pay: Insiders' Estimates of the Value of Complementary Human Resource Management Practices," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(1), pages 155-180, Winter.
    11. Erica Groshen & David Levine, 1998. "The rise and decline(?) of U.S. internal labor markets," Research Paper 9819, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    12. Erica L. Groshen, 1991. "Sources of Intra-Industry Wage Dispersion: How Much Do Employers Matter?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(3), pages 869-884.
    13. Bronars, Stephen G & Famulari, Melissa, 1997. "Wage, Tenure, and Wage Growth Variation within and across Establishment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(2), pages 285-317, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    compensation policy; employer-employee longitudinal data; human capital;

    JEL classification:

    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • M50 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - General

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cen:tpaper:2005-04. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Erica Coates). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/cesgvus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.