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Jobs, workers and changes in earnings dispersion

  • Simon Burgess
  • Julia Lane
  • David Stevens

The ''fractal'' nature of the rise in earnings dispersion is one of its key features and remains a puzzle. In this paper, we offer a new perspective on the causes of changes in earnings dispersion, focusing on the role of labour reallocation. Once we drop the assumption that all firms pay a given worker the same, the allocation of workers to firms matters for the dispersion of earnings. This perspective highlights two new factors that can affect the dispersion of earnings: rates of job and worker reallocation, and the nature of the process allocating workers to jobs. We set out a framework capturing this idea and quantify the impact of reallocation on earnings dispersion, using a dataset that comprises almost the universe of workers and the universe of employers in Maryland. We show that these factors have potentially large effects in general on earnings dispersion. In the case of Maryland over the period 1985-1994, the changing allocation of workers to jobs played a significant role in explaining movements in the dispersion of earnings.

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Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 20129.

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Length: 43 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2001
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:20129
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  1. Erica L. Groshen, 1988. "Why do wages vary among employers?," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, issue Q I, pages 19-38.
  2. Burgess, Simon & Lane, Julia & Stevens, David, 1995. "Job Flows, Worker Flows and Churning," CEPR Discussion Papers 1125, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. John M. Abowd & Francis Kramarz & David N. Margolis, 1994. "High-Wage Workers and High-Wage Firms," CIRANO Working Papers 94s-23, CIRANO.
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  5. Blackburn, McKinley L & Neumark, David, 1993. "Omitted-Ability Bias and the Increase in the Return to Schooling," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(3), pages 521-44, July.
  6. Lane, Julia & Stevens, David & Burgess, Simon, 1996. "Worker and job flows," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 109-113, April.
  7. Louis S. Jacobson & Robert J. LaLonde & Daniel Sullivan, 1992. "Earnings Losses of Displaced Workers," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 92-11, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
  8. repec:oup:qjecon:v:107:y:1992:i:1:p:285-326 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  10. Lawrence F. Katz & Kevin M. Murphy, 1991. "Changes in Relative Wages, 1963-1987: Supply and Demand Factors," NBER Working Papers 3927, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. repec:oup:qjecon:v:108:y:1993:i:3:p:551-75 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 1993. "Wage Dispersion, Returns to Skill, and Black-White Wage Differentials," Working Papers 691, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  13. Michael Kremer & Eric Maskin, 1996. "Wage Inequality and Segregation by Skill," NBER Working Papers 5718, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Heckman, James J & Sedlacek, Guilherme, 1985. "Heterogeneity, Aggregation, and Market Wage Functions: An Empirical Model of Self-selection in the Labor Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(6), pages 1077-1125, December.
  15. Steven J. Davis & John Haltiwanger, 1995. "Employer Size and The Wage Structure in U.S. Manufacturing," NBER Working Papers 5393, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Heckman, James J & Honore, Bo E, 1990. "The Empirical Content of the Roy Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(5), pages 1121-49, September.
  17. Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett & Frank Levy, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," NBER Working Papers 5076, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. repec:adr:anecst:y:1996:i:41-42:p:14 is not listed on IDEAS
  19. repec:oup:qjecon:v:107:y:1992:i:3:p:819-63 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. Heckman, James J & Sedlacek, Guilherme L, 1990. "Self-selection and the Distribution of Hourly Wages," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(1), pages S329-63, January.
  21. Lindbeck, A. & Snower, D.J., 1996. "Reorganization of Firms and Labor Market Inequality," Papers 605, Stockholm - International Economic Studies.
  22. Levy, Frank & Murnane, Richard J, 1992. "U.S. Earnings Levels and Earnings Inequality: A Review of Recent Trends and Proposed Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 1333-81, September.
  23. Sattinger, Michael, 1993. "Assignment Models of the Distribution of Earnings," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 31(2), pages 831-80, June.
  24. Parsons, Donald O., 1987. "The employment relationship: Job attachment, work effort, and the nature of contracts," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & R. Layard (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 14, pages 789-848 Elsevier.
  25. Louis S. Jacobson & Robert J. LaLonde & Daniel G. Sullivan, 1993. "Long-term earnings losses of high-seniority displaced workers," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Nov, pages 2-20.
  26. Steve J. Davis & John Haltiwanger, 1991. "Wage Dispersion Between and Within U.S. Manufacturing Plants, 1963-1986," NBER Working Papers 3722, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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