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Mighty Good Thing: The Returns to Tenure

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  • Alan Manning

Abstract

The human capital earnings function is part of the toolbox of labour economists. Returns to labour market experience are interpreted as returns to general human capital, and returns to job tenure as returns to job-specific human capital. There is, however, an awareness that there are other models capable of explaining these correlations, notably a search or 'job-shopping' model and a number of papers have attempted to distinguish the two hypotheses using mostly data on wage growth for job-stayers and movers. The results have been mixed. This paper takes a different approach to the same issue. It shows how a simple search model can be used to predict the nature of the relationship between wages, experience and tenure if one has data on labour market transition rates. This is what is done in this paper using data from the UK Labour Force Survey. The conclusions are that while part of the returns to experience can be explained by the search model, there is a substantial part that must be interpreted as a 'true' return to experience. In contrast, we show how the search model over-predicts the returns to tenure and the data seem broadly consistent with a model in which the 'true' returns to tenure are close to zero.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan Manning, 1998. "Mighty Good Thing: The Returns to Tenure," CEP Discussion Papers dp0383, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0383
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1984. "Matching, Turnover, and Unemployment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(1), pages 108-122, February.
    2. Joseph G. Altonji & Nicolas Williams, 2005. "Do Wages Rise with Job Seniority? A Reassessment," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 58(3), pages 370-397, April.
    3. Ruhm, Christopher J, 1991. "Are Workers Permanently Scarred by Job Displacements?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 319-324, March.
    4. Murphy, Kevin M & Welch, Finis, 1990. "Empirical Age-Earnings Profiles," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(2), pages 202-229, April.
    5. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1979. "Job Matching and the Theory of Turnover," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 972-990, October.
    6. Yoram Ben-Porath, 1967. "The Production of Human Capital and the Life Cycle of Earnings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 352-352.
    7. Topel, Robert H, 1991. "Specific Capital, Mobility, and Wages: Wages Rise with Job Seniority," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(1), pages 145-176, February.
    8. Joseph G. Altonji & Robert A. Shakotko, 1987. "Do Wages Rise with Job Seniority?," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 54(3), pages 437-459.
    9. Robert H. Topel & Michael P. Ward, 1992. "Job Mobility and the Careers of Young Men," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 439-479.
    10. Joseph G. Altonji & Nicolas Williams, 1992. "The Effects of Labor Market Experience, Job Seniority, and Job Mobility on Wage Growth," NBER Working Papers 4133, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1979. "Firm-specific Capital and Turnover," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1246-1260, December.
    12. Mortensen, Dale T, 1988. "Wages, Separations, and Job Tenure: On-the-Job Specific Training or Matching?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(4), pages 445-471, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cornelia Luchsinger & Rafael Lalive & Jörg Wild, 2003. "Do Wages Rise with Job Seniority? The Swiss Case," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 139(II), pages 207-229, June.
    2. Alan Manning & Joanna Swaffield, 2008. "The gender gap in early-career wage growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(530), pages 983-1024, July.
    3. Piekkola, Hannu, 2002. "Transferability of Human Capital and Job Switches," Discussion Papers 794, The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • R14 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Land Use Patterns
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General

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