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The Relationship between Location Choice and Earnings Inequality

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  • Peter McHenry

    () (Department of Economics, College of William and Mary)

Abstract

This paper provides new empirical evidence about how workers’ locations affect measurements of earnings inequality (and their changes over time) in the United States. Part of the inequality observed in any given U.S. sample is due to the fact that workers with different skills (and therefore earnings) are not distributed symmetrically across locations that are more and less productive (and therefore pay higher and lower wages). In particular, I estimate that a significant and rising proportion of the college wage premium is due to college graduates living in and moving toward higher-paying locations than high school graduates. Furthermore, I assess the impact of location on real wage inequality (adjusting for local costs of living). The higher wages that college graduates enjoy as a result of their location choices are mostly counterbalanced by higher costs of living. From this, I infer that college graduates choose to live in more economically productive labor markets than do workers with less education, but college graduates are not necessarily more capable of exploiting locational wage differences for their own advantage.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter McHenry, 2011. "The Relationship between Location Choice and Earnings Inequality," Working Papers 112, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
  • Handle: RePEc:cwm:wpaper:112
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    File URL: http://economics.wm.edu/wp/cwm_wp112.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    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. Dan Black & Natalia Kolesnikova & Lowell Taylor, 2009. "Earnings Functions When Wages and Prices Vary by Location," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 21-47, January.
    3. E. D. Gould, 2007. "Cities, Workers, and Wages: A Structural Analysis of the Urban Wage Premium," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(2), pages 477-506.
    4. Yankow, Jeffrey J., 2006. "Why do cities pay more? An empirical examination of some competing theories of the urban wage premium," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 139-161, September.
    5. Edward L. Glaeser & Albert Saiz, 2003. "The rise of the skilled city," Working Papers 04-2, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    6. Wheeler, Christopher H., 2006. "Cities and the growth of wages among young workers: Evidence from the NLSY," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 162-184, September.
    7. Autor, David & Dorn, David, 2009. "Inequality and Specialization: The Growth of Low-Skill Service Jobs in the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 4290, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    8. Dumond, J Michael & Hirsch, Barry T & Macpherson, David A, 1999. "Wage Differentials across Labor Markets and Workers: Does Cost of Living Matter?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 37(4), pages 577-598, October.
    9. Glaeser, Edward L & Mare, David C, 2001. "Cities and Skills," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(2), pages 316-342, April.
    10. Peter McHenry, 2014. "The Geographic Distribution Of Human Capital: Measurement Of Contributing Mechanisms," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(2), pages 215-248, March.
    11. Ofer Malamud & Abigail Wozniak, 2008. "The Impact of College Graduation on Geographic Mobility: Identifying Education Using Multiple Components of Vietnam Draft Risk," Working Papers 0811, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
    12. Timothy J. Bartik, 2004. "Economic Development," Book chapters authored by Upjohn Institute researchers,in: J. Richard Aronson & Eli Schwartz (ed.), Managememnt Policies in Local Government Finance, pages 355-390 W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
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    Cited by:

    1. Laouénan, Morgane, 2017. "‘Hate at First Sight’: Evidence of consumer discrimination against African-Americans in the US," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 94-109.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Earnings inequality; Migration; Regional labor markets;

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers

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