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Recalculating... : How Uncertainty in Local Labor Market Definitions Affects Empirical Findings


  • Andrew Foote
  • Mark J. Kutzbach
  • Lars Vilhuber


This paper evaluates the use of commuting zones as a local labor market definition. We revisit Tolbert and Sizer (1996) and demonstrate the sensitivity of definitions to two features of the methodology: a cluster dissimilarity cutoff, or the count of clusters, and uncertainty in the input data. We show how these features impact empirical estimates using a standard application of commuting zones and an example from related literature. We conclude with advice to researchers on how to demonstrate the robustness of empirical findings to uncertainty in the definition of commuting zones

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Foote & Mark J. Kutzbach & Lars Vilhuber, 2017. "Recalculating... : How Uncertainty in Local Labor Market Definitions Affects Empirical Findings," Working Papers 17-49, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:17-49

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Abigail Wozniak, 2010. "Are College Graduates More Responsive to Distant Labor Market Opportunities?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 45(4), pages 944-970.
    2. Michael Amior & Alan Manning, 2018. "The Persistence of Local Joblessness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 108(7), pages 1942-1970, July.
    3. Tolbert, Charles M., II & Killian, Molly Sizer, 1987. "Labor Market Areas for the United States," Staff Reports 277959, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    4. Yagan, Danny, 2016. "The Enduring Employment Impact of Your Great Recession Location," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt12d0w9bs, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
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    2. Veronica Minaya & Brendan Moore & Judith Scott-Clayton, 2020. "The Effect of Job Displacement on College Enrollment: Evidence from Ohio," NBER Working Papers 27694, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. J. Meekes & W.H.J. Hassink, 2018. "Endogenous local labour markets, regional aggregation and agglomeration economies," Working Papers 18-03, Utrecht School of Economics.
    4. Christopher S Fowler & Leif Jensen, 2020. "Bridging the gap between geographic concept and the data we have: The case of labor markets in the USA," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 52(7), pages 1395-1414, October.
    5. ADACHI Daisuke & FUKAI Taiyo & KAWAGUCHI Daiji & SAITO Yukiko, 2020. "Commuting Zones in Japan," Discussion papers 20021, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    6. Brad J. Hershbein & Bryan A. Stuart, 2020. "Recessions and Local Labor Market Hysteresis," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 20-325, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    7. Zabek, Mike, 2018. "Local Ties in Spatial Equilibrium," SocArXiv rpq5z, Center for Open Science.
    8. Ben Lipsius, 2018. "Labor Market Concentration does not Explain the Falling Labor Share," 2018 Papers pli1202, Job Market Papers.

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    More about this item


    Local labor markets; commuting; measurement error; Sensitivity analysis;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C13 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Estimation: General
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • C63 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Computational Techniques

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