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Seniority, Experience, and Wages in the UK

  • Nicolas Williams


This paper uses BHPS data to investigate the relative importance of seniority and experience in determining male wages in the UK labor market. Using both the Altonji and Shakotko instrumental variable and the Topel two-step estimation approaches, I find that tenure plays a modest role, increasing wages by about 1 percent each year over the first 10 years on the job. General labor market experience has a larger role, so that after 30 years wages have increased by about 60 percent. Individual and job match heterogeneity are important, and should be carefully modeled when estimating wage equations for the British labor market. These results are remarkably similar to the most recent evidence about these relationships in the US labor market. After extending the standard model to include industry experience, I find that the estimated impact of job seniority becomes negligible for nonunion workers. Instead, wages rise about 10 percent with the accumulation of 10 years of industry experience. One plausible explanation is that for nonunion workers, productivity-enhancing human capital investments are not job specific, but rather transferable within a particular industry. For union workers, job specific seniority plays a more important role, as 10 years of seniority raises wages by about twice as much as for nonunion workers. Further, unobservable individual and job match heterogeneity is unimportant when estimating union worker wage equations. I find weak evidence that at least some of this seniority effect for union workers remains after including industry experience in the analysis.

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Paper provided by University of Cincinnati, Department of Economics in its series University of Cincinnati, Economics Working Papers Series with number 2004-06.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cin:ucecwp:2004-06
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  1. Katharine G. Abraham & Henry S. Farber, 1986. "Job Duration, Seniority and Earnings," Working papers 407, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  2. Altonji, Joseph G & Shakotko, Robert A, 1987. "Do Wages Rise with Job Seniority?," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(3), pages 437-59, July.
  3. Cingano, Federico, 2003. "Returns to specific skills in industrial districts," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 149-164, April.
  4. Alexandros Zangelidis, 2004. "Seniority Profiles In Unionised Workplaces: Do Unions Still Have The Edge?," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2004 48, Royal Economic Society.
  5. Joseph G. Altonji & Nicolas Williams, 1997. "Do Wages Rise with Job Seniority? A Reassessment," NBER Working Papers 6010, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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 145-76, February.
  7. Christian Dustmann & Costas Meghir, 2005. "Wages, Experience and Seniority," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(1), pages 77-108.
  8. Arthur H. Goldsmith & Jonathan R. Veum, 2002. "Wages and the Composition of Experience," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 69(2), pages 429-443, October.
  9. John M. Barron & Mark C. Berger & Dan A. Black, 1997. "On-the-Job Training," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number ojt.
  10. James Coleman, 1998. "The effect of tenure on earnings for males: a public/private analysis," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(11), pages 707-710.
  11. Hutchens, Robert M, 1989. "Seniority, Wages and Productivity: A Turbulent Decade," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 49-64, Fall.
  12. John T. Addison & Clive R. Belfield, 2004. "Union Voice," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 25(4), pages 563-596, October.
  13. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1979. "Firm-specific Capital and Turnover," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1246-60, December.
  14. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1984. "Matching, Turnover, and Unemployment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(1), pages 108-22, February.
  15. Alexandros Zangelidis, 2008. "Occupational And Industry Specificity Of Human Capital In The British Labour Market," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 55(4), pages 420-443, 09.
  16. Light, Audrey, 1998. "Estimating Returns to Schooling: When Does the Career Begin?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 31-45, February.
  17. 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.
  18. Barry T. Hirsch, 2004. "What Do Unions Do for Economic Performance?," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 25(3), pages 415-456, July.
  19. David N. MARGOLIS, 1996. "Cohort Effects and Returns to Seniority in France," Annales d'Economie et de Statistique, ENSAE, issue 41-42, pages 443-464.
  20. Booth, Alison L & Frank, Jeff, 1996. "Seniority, Earnings and Unions," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 63(252), pages 673-86, November.
  21. Katharine G. Abraham & Henry S. Farber, 1987. "Returns to Seniority in Union and Nonunion Jobs: A New Look at the Evidence," NBER Working Papers 2368, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Light, Audrey, 2001. "In-School Work Experience and the Returns to Schooling," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(1), pages 65-93, January.
  23. Bruce E. Kaufman, 2005. "What Do Unions Do?--Evaluation and Commentary," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 26(4), pages 555-596, November.
  24. David Margolis, 1996. "Cohort Effects and Returns to Seniority in France," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00353897, HAL.
  25. Marshall, Robert C & Zarkin, Gary A, 1987. "The Effect of Job Tenure on Wage Offers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(3), pages 301-24, July.
  26. Hildreth, Andrew, 1999. " What Has Happened to the Union Wage Differential in Britain in the 1990s?," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 61(1), pages 5-31, February.
  27. Williams, Nicolas, 1991. "Reexamining the Wage, Tenure and Experience Relationship," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 73(3), pages 512-17, August.
  28. 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.
  29. Brown, James N & Light, Audrey, 1992. "Interpreting Panel Data on Job Tenure," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 10(3), pages 219-57, July.
  30. Alison L. Booth & Marco Francesconi & Carlos Garcia-Serrano, 1999. "Job tenure and job mobility in Britain," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 53(1), pages 43-70, October.
  31. Farber, Henry S., 1999. "Mobility and stability: The dynamics of job change in labor markets," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 37, pages 2439-2483 Elsevier.
  32. Theodossiou, I & Williams, H, 1998. "Employer-Provided Training and Tenure-Earnings," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 45(3), pages 258-72, August.
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