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Bias in Returns to Tenure When Firm Wages and Employment Comove: A Quantitative Assessment and Solution

Author

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  • Pedro Martins
  • Andy Snell
  • Heiko Stueber
  • Jonathan Thomas

Abstract

It is well known that, unless worker-firm match quality is controlled for, returns to firm tenure (RTT) estimated directly via reduced form wage (Mincer) equations will be biased. In this paper we argue that even if match quality is properly controlled for there is a further pervasive source of bias, namely the co-movement of firm employment and firm wages. In a simple mechanical model where human capital is absent and separation is exogenous we show that positively covarying shocks (either aggregate or firm level) to firms employment and wages cause downward bias in OLS regression estimates of RTT. We show that the long established procedures for dealing with "traditional" RTT bias do not circumvent the additional problem we have identified. We argue that if a reduced form estimation of RTT is undertaken, firm-year fixed effects must be added in order to eliminate this bias. Estimates from two large panel datasets from Portugal and Germany show that the bias is empirically important. Adding firm-year fixed effects to the regression increases estimates of RTT in the two respective countries by between 3.5% and 4.5% of wages at 20 years of tenure -? over 80% (50%) of the estimated RTT level itself. The results extend to tenure correlates used in macroeconomics such as the minimum unemployment rate since joining the firm. Adding firm-year fixed effects changes estimates of these estimates also.

Suggested Citation

  • Pedro Martins & Andy Snell & Heiko Stueber & Jonathan Thomas, 2016. "Bias in Returns to Tenure When Firm Wages and Employment Comove: A Quantitative Assessment and Solution," Working Papers 64, Queen Mary, University of London, School of Business and Management, Centre for Globalisation Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:cgs:wpaper:64
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    File URL: http://webspace.qmul.ac.uk/pmartins/CGRWP64.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. I. Sebastian Buhai & Miguel A. Portela & Coen N. Teulings & Aico van Vuuren, 2014. "Returns to Tenure or Seniority?," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82(2), pages 705-730, March.
    2. Pascal Michaillat, 2012. "Do Matching Frictions Explain Unemployment? Not in Bad Times," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 1721-1750.
    3. Beaudry, Paul & DiNardo, John, 1991. "The Effect of Implicit Contracts on the Movement of Wages over the Business Cycle: Evidence from Micro Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 665-688, August.
    4. Pascal Michaillat, 2012. "Do Matching Frictions Explain Unemployment? Not in Bad Times," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 1721-1750.
    5. Andy Snell & Jonathan P. Thomas, 2010. "Labor Contracts, Equal Treatment, and Wage-Unemployment Dynamics," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, pages 98-127.
    6. Mark Gertler & Antonella Trigari, 2006. "Unemployment fluctuations with staggered Nash wage bargaining," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    7. Mark Gertler & Antonella Trigari, 2009. "Unemployment Fluctuations with Staggered Nash Wage Bargaining," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(1), pages 38-86, February.
    8. Leeper, Eric M. & Yang, Shu-Chun Susan, 2008. "Dynamic scoring: Alternative financing schemes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 159-182, February.
    9. Moshe Buchinsky & Denis Fougère & Francis Kramarz & Rusty Tchernis, 2002. "Interfirm Mobility, Wages and the Returns to Seniority and Experience in the U.S," Working Papers 2002-29, Center for Research in Economics and Statistics.
    10. Devereux, Paul J. & Hart, Robert A. & Roberts, J. Elizabeth, 2013. "Job Spells, Employer Spells, and Wage Returns to Tenure," IZA Discussion Papers 7384, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    11. Moshe Buchinsky & Denis Fougère & Francis Kramarz & Rusty Tchernis, 2002. "Interfirm Mobility, Wages and the Returns to Seniority and Experience in the U.S," Working Papers 2002-29, Center for Research in Economics and Statistics.
    12. Darren Grant, 2003. "The Effect of Implicit Contracts on the Movement of Wages over the Business Cycle: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Surveys," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(3), pages 393-408, April.
    13. Bowlus, Audra J, 1995. "Matching Workers and Jobs: Cyclical Fluctuations in Match Quality," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 335-350, April.
    14. Robert E. Hall, 2005. "Employment Fluctuations with Equilibrium Wage Stickiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 50-65.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pedro S. Martins, 2016. "Can overtime premium flexibility promote employment? Firm-and worker-level evidence from a labour law reform," FEUNL Working Paper Series wp607, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Economia.
    2. Pedro S. Martins, 2016. "Should the maximum duration of fixed-term contracts increase in recessions? Evidence from a law reform," FEUNL Working Paper Series wp606, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Economia.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Matched data; Tenure effects; Germany; Portugal;

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J63 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Turnover; Vacancies; Layoffs
    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models

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